Colorado ruling disqualifying Trump could have implications in Georgia

The Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling that former President Donald Trump can’t hold office again could have legal implications in Georgia, where the state’s No. 2 politician also faces an ongoing lawsuit seeking to disqualify him.

Colorado’s top court issued a ruling late Tuesday that ordered that Trump be removed from the state’s Republican primary ballot, finding that he violated the U.S. Constitution’s insurrection clause by seeking to reverse his 2020 defeat to President Joe Biden.

The decision may not stand. Trump’s campaign swiftly promised to appeal what it called a “completely flawed” decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has the final word on state constitutional matters.

Still, it’s the first time in U.S. history the 14th Amendment has been used to disqualify a presidential candidate, and Trump’s critics say it could help other legal efforts around the nation and in Georgia that target Trump and his allies.

A separate longshot challenge is now pending in Butts County Superior Court against Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, where four left-leaning plaintiffs say in a 47-page lawsuit that the Republican should be disqualified for his role in Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 defeat.

It’s part of a coordinated legal effort by Democrats to disqualify Trump and key allies by invoking Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which bars anyone who swore an oath to “support” the Constitution and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from seeking office.

Similar lawsuits targeting Trump in Minnesota and New Hampshire have been dismissed, while a Michigan judge ruled that it should be up to Congress and not the judiciary to decide whether the former president can seek office again.

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The liberal group that filed those lawsuits, Free Speech for People, also sought to disqualify U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene last year. After a daylong hearing in April 2022, a Georgia judge ruled the challengers had “failed to prove their case” against the Rome Republican.

On Tuesday, Greene said the Colorado decision “stole the election away from the people of Colorado and robbed them of their right” to vote for Trump.

The challenge against Jones was filed this month by four plaintiffs who said the lieutenant governor has “forfeited his right to hold public office and to discharge the duties” and claims he is an “oath-breaking person.”

It invoked how Jones served as a pro-Trump elector after state officials certified Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, helped organize legislative hearings that promoted conspiracy theories about the vote and called for a special legislative session to hear allegations of voting fraud.

Jones also sided with Texas in a lawsuit that sought to invalidate Georgia’s presidential election results and signed a letter urging then-Vice President Mike Pence to postpone certification of election results. Jones planned to deliver the letter to Pence during a Jan. 5, 2021 dinner but later told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he changed his mind.

Lt. Gov. Burt Jones speaks during the GOP Convention at the Columbus Georgia Convention & Trade Center on Saturday, June 10, 2023. (Natrice Miller/

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

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Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Superior Court Judge Thomas Wilson didn’t rule from the bench after a Monday hearing on the complaint but appeared skeptical of the plaintiff’s arguments, at one point saying their lawsuit seemed “far-fetched.”

Wayne Kendall, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said Tuesday that he expects the judge to reject the lawsuit — and that he will appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court. Still, Kendall said the Colorado court’s decision could buoy his lawsuit’s slim chances of success.

“It’s not a controlling case, but it is persuasive,” said Kendall. “It doesn’t hurt us, certainly. I’m looking forward to getting it to the Georgia Supreme Court, where I think we’ll get a fair reading of the law.”

Some legal scholars say the Colorado ruling could wind up bolstering Jones’ defense. Anthony Michael Kreis, who teaches constitutional law at Georgia State University, said the decision sharpened the definition for what it means to offer “aid or comfort” to insurrectionists.

“I have not seen tangible evidence that Jones provided active assistance to those engaged in the Jan. 6 insurrection,” Kreis said. “More likely than not, whatever conduct Jones is alleged to be engaged in doesn’t reach anywhere near Trump’s level, or those involved in the Jan. 6 insurrection.”

The lieutenant governor, meanwhile, has said he and Trump are both “being targeted by liberal Democrats intent on weaponizing the legal system against strong conservatives fighting for commonsense conservative values.”

“The voters get to decide who represents them in Georgia, not Democrat operatives,” Jones said in a statement to the AJC. “I won’t let them subvert the will of the people. I’ll continue fighting back against the radical Democrats in Georgia and around the country.”