Michigan Judge Rules to Keep Trump on the Ballot

Michigan rejected efforts to remove the former president from the ballot under the 14th Amendment.
Michigan Judge Rules to Keep Trump on the Ballot
Former President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at The Ted Hendricks Stadium at Henry Milander Park in Hialeah, Fla., on Nov. 8, 2023. (Alon Skuy/Getty Images)
Catherine Yang
A Michigan judge echoed the Minnesota Supreme Court's recent decision that 14th Amendment challenges to keep former President Donald Trump off the state primary ballot as he seeks reelection are premature.
Michigan Court of Claims Judge James Robert Redford wrote on Tuesday that "plaintiffs cannot show that they are entitled to a declaratory judgment," because Michigan state law requires the secretary of state to put major candidates identified in the media on the primary ballot. Yesterday, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson did just that, including President Trump on the list.

The judge's new order addresses three separate cases—one brought by a local advocate, another by Free Speech for People representing a handful of local voters, and one brought by President Trump. All three were petitions against Ms. Benson, arguing over whether her office had the authority to disqualify candidates from presidential primary ballots, and whether President Trump was disqualified under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.

The 14th Amendment grants citizenship and equal rights to all people born or naturalized in the United States. Ratified after the Civil War, it also included a section that prohibited those who had participated in "rebellions" or "insurrections" against the nation from holding office.

Such challenges have been brought in more than a dozen states, and several have already dismissed similar cases.

Steven Cheung, Trump Campaign spokesman, stated that Michigan joins Minnesota, New Hampshire, and South Carolina in dismissing these claims.

"Each and every one of these ridiculous cases has LOST because they are all un-Constitutional left-wing fantasies orchestrated by monied allies of the Biden campaign seeking to turn the election over to the courts and deny the American people the right to choose their next president," he stated, adding that they expect additional dismissals to similar cases.

Meanwhile, plaintiffs in the other two cases released a joint statement announcing their intention to appeal the decision in the Michigan Court of Appeals and Michigan Supreme Court.

“The Court’s decision is disappointing, but we will continue by appealing this ruling to seek to uphold this critical constitutional provision designed to protect our republic,” stated attorney Mark Brewer, claiming President Trump "led a rebellion and insurrection against the constitution" and tried to "overturn" the 2020 elections.

"He is disqualified from ever seeking or holding public office again,” Mr. Brewer stated.


Judge Redford wrote that while the state secretary has the discretion to consider which media sources to use when putting together the candidate lists, the political parties of the state ultimately finalize the lists under state law.

This, coupled with the Minnesota Supreme Court's recent analysis of a similar case, "persuaded" the judge to determine that "primary elections are designed as an aid to the respective political parties in choosing their nominees at the national convention."

For these reasons, the court would also not order the secretary to place President Trump on the ballot, the judge elaborated in a footnote, reaffirming the stance that state law has outlined a clear procedure for setting primary ballots.

"The Legislature has not provided any prohibition as to who may be placed on such ballots, irrespective as to whether the individual may either serve as a general election candidate or ultimately serve as president if elected," the judge wrote.

Judge Redford also echoed the Minnesota ruling that the issue was "not ripe" at the primary state of elections.

Section 3

Unlike the Minnesota Supreme Court ruling, Judge Redford offered an interpretation of how Section 3 of the 14th Amendment is executed.

He outlines a scenario where President Trump would first need to win the primaries and become the national Republican candidate, and then win the general election, before he could be properly challenged under this constitutional statute.

"If he does so, and his right to be seated as President is challenged and he is found to be under the Section 3 disability, he could then petition Congress to have that disability removed," Judge Redford wrote.

Political Question Doctrine

He further determined that whether President Trump belongs on the ballot was a "nonjusticiable political question."

The "political question doctrine" determines whether constitutional questions fall under the jurisdiction of courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court has outlined several factors to define this.

Judge Redford said he consulted the ruling from a similar case in New Hampshire, which was also dismissed, and which analyzed the same issue and found it had no jurisdiction to decide whether President Trump could be disqualified in New Hampshire.

In doing so, his interpretation was a departure from the Minnesota ruling which would allow the plaintiffs to bring their case again regarding the general election ballot.

Congress's Role

The judge further interpreted the historical context of that statute to mean that Congress is the body that holds jurisdiction over executing this disqualification.

"The actions of those to whom Section 3's disqualification provision applied and Congress's post-civil war responses to the various problems with the way 'disabilities' were initially removed support the conclusion that Congress is primarily responsible for taking actions to effectuate Section 3," he wrote, additional citing law from the 1800s.

He rejected the interpretation that Congress can merely remove the disability, and had no power to enforce such a disqualification.

"The fact that Congress may have, at least for the moment, decided not to address this question prior to judicial intervention does not change the fact that they have the power to do so, and have certainly done so in the past," he wrote.


The issues addressed in Judge Redford's opinion recently played out in a trial in Colorado, where a different group had challenged the secretary of state to keep President Trump off the primary ballot under the 14th Amendment.

For two weeks, witnesses testified as to whether the events of Jan. 6, 2021, constituted an "insurrection" or "rebellion," whether President Trump "engaged" in those events, whether state courts have jurisdiction over the issue, which body is meant to execute such a disqualification, and even whether the office of the president was covered by Section 3.

The judge is expected to issue a ruling on the case by the end of the week.

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