Rule of Law

Enforcing Insurrection Clause Against Former President Donald Trump


On December 19, Colorado’s top court became the first in the nation to rule that Donald Trump is disqualified from holding office because he engaged in insurrection against the Constitution on January 6, 2021. With this ruling, the Colorado secretary of state will exclude Trump’s name from the state’s Republican primary ballot.

Voters in three other states are also challenging Trump’s eligibility to appear on primary ballots based on the 14th Amendment’s Disqualification clause. It disqualifies from office any individual who has taken an oath to support the Constitution and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same.”

In last week’s Colorado decision, a four-justice majority wrote that they were “mindful of our solemn duty to apply the law, without fear or favor, and without being swayed by public reaction to the decisions that the law mandates we reach.” As the other three cases are being decide, some are concerned that enforcing the constitutional accountability clause could escalate political violence.

In a recent Newsweek editorial, Praveen Fernandes emphasized the importance of judges heeding the warning of legal scholar Sherrilyn Ifill. She notes that when judges have hesitated in the past to apply the provisions of the 14th Amendment, it has had the effect of undermining our democracy’s promise.

Guest – Praveen Fernandes serves as the vice president at the Constitutional Accountability Center in Washington, DC. The center is a public interest law firm and think tank committed to realizing the progressive ideals embedded in the Constitution’s text and history. Praveen brings to the table nearly two decades of experience working on issues related to law, democracy, and civil rights, both within and outside the government.