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Editorial: Trump must be held to the law, but the Court must do so with extreme care

This upcoming February, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case that will decide if Trump is ineligible to remain on the ballot given his involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection, as reported by the Colorado Newsline. The conservative build-up of the court – a third of the Justices being appointed by Donald Trump – and the weight of the question will require a critical opinion to remove Trump from the ballot, but it is imperative that they do so. 

When the Supreme Court decides a case, they interpret the Constitution and set precedents that will be used to determine the outcome of future court cases. This case calls Section 3 of the 14th Amendment into question – a section that has never been interpreted by the Supreme Court before, according to AP.  

To ignore the impacts this case will have on the 2024 election is naive, but should not absolve the court from making a definite decision on Trump's position as an insurrectionist. 

The 14th Amendment states no one under oath of office “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof” is permitted to hold public office. The text is damning and the Court has a responsibility to clearly define Jan. 6 as an insurrection. 

This is the most influence a court has had in an election since Gore v Bush in 2008 when the court didn’t let Florida hold a recount and Bush won, according to CNN. If they remove Trump from the ballot, the Court must be careful in its decision to ensure they are not regularly a determining factor in future election ballots. 

It is deeply undemocratic to allow a body that is not elected and serves lifetime terms to play a role in the outcomes of elections. The next time a controversial candidate comes up, the courts could be seen as the decision-makers if not handled appropriately now. 

Arguments that say the 14th doesn’t apply in this case get into the technicalities of whether or not the Constitution should be seen as a living document. Mark Caruso, the attorney defending Trump in the New Mexico lawsuit as reported by the Albuquerque Journal, is arguing Trump's encouragement on Jan. 6 is not what would have been seen as applicable to the amendment when it was written. This asks whether the Constitution should be interpreted by either putting oneself in the mindset of the time the text was written or asking how the text would best apply today. 

An insurrection when the 14th Amendment was written looked like the Civil War. An insurrection in today’s day and age looks like Jan. 6. 

If the Court blatantly ignores Trump’s role on Jan. 6 and allows him to be on the ballot, this gives  Americans the impression that it is okay for someone under oath to engage in an insurrection and still be allowed to run for office – undermining what is clearly stated in the 14th Amendment and shown within the realities of Jan. 6. 

There are multiple ways the Court could decide to issue this opinion, but we won’t know what precedents are set until it is done. For instance, the court could find Trump an insurrectionist but ignore the question of whether or not he should be removed from the ballot, as Steve Valdeck wrote – a law professor from the University of Texas at Austin. Regardless, the Court must be definitive and precise in its ruling.

Given the gravity of the case, had there not been the extenuating circumstances of the impending primary elections, I wish they had more time to craft and critically think about this monumental case. The decision and language of the Court can greatly impact future elections, but they must not hesitate in holding Trump accountable for his actions on Jan. 6. 

Maddie Pukite is the editor-in-chief at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at on Twitter @maddogpukite 

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Maddie Pukite

Maddie Pukite is the 2023-2024 editor of the Daily Lobo. 

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