Michigan Supreme Court declines to hear appeal in lawsuit seeking to bar Trump from primary ballot

By: - December 27, 2023 11:42 am

Former President Donald Trump arrives for an event at the Adler Theatre on March 13, 2023 in Davenport, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump will remain on the ballot for Michigan’s presidential primary following an order by the Michigan Supreme Court.

The unsigned decision released Wednesday morning did not rule on the merits of the case itself, saying that they were “not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by this Court.”

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth M. Welch at the Michigan Capitol Building on October 11, 2023. (Photo: Anna Liz Nichols)

While a vote tally was not provided, Justice Elizabeth Welch did offer a dissent, saying that the state’s highest court should have made a determination on whether Trump was eligible.

“Considering the importance of the legal questions at issue and the speed with which the appellants and the judiciary have moved, I believe it is important for this Court to issue a decision on the merits,” wrote Welch, one of four Democratic-nominated justices on the seven-member court.

However, Welch said had they done so, she would have agreed with the Michigan Court of Appeals ruling earlier this month that said including Trump’s name on the primary ballot comported with state law allowing political parties to put those names forward.

Welch also outlined how Michigan law was different from that in Colorado, whose state Supreme Court ruled Dec. 19 that Trump was ineligible to appear on that state’s primary ballot.

“Significantly, Colorado’s election laws differ from Michigan’s laws in a material way that is directly relevant to why the appellants in this case are not entitled to the relief they seek concerning the presidential primary election in Michigan,” she said, noting that Colorado requires an affidavit by candidates affirming they are eligible to run.

“The appellants have identified no analogous provision in the Michigan Election Law that requires someone seeking the office of President of the United States to attest to their legal qualification to hold the office,” wrote Welch.

Trump quickly responded to the decision in a post on his social media platform, TruthSocial.

“This pathetic gambit to rig the Election has failed all across the Country, including in States that have historically leaned heavily toward the Democrats,” said Trump. “Colorado is the only State to have fallen prey to the scheme. That 4-3 Colorado Supreme Court decision, which they themselves stayed, thus keeping me on the ballot as we go up to the U.S. Supreme Court, is being ridiculed and mocked all over the World.”

Mark Brewer, a former Michigan Democratic Party chair and one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, told the Michigan Advance they have no plans to drop the issue.

Colorado Supreme Court blocks Trump from 2024 ballot in historic insurrection ruling

“The decision is very disappointing, but also very narrow with the Court deciding the case on technical state law grounds and refusing to address any of the constitutional issues,” he said. “If Trump is the nominee we will challenge his eligibility to appear on the general election ballot.”

The appeal was filed by Free Speech For People, a progressive legal advocacy group which sought to overturn a ruling earlier this month by the Michigan Court of Appeals which affirmed previous decisions denying Trump was ineligible to run based on wording within Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.

That section disqualifies from public office any individual who has taken an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution but then engages in insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or gives aid or comfort to its enemies. No prior criminal conviction is required.

Trump has been targeted by plaintiffs in cases for his role in “inciting and facilitating” the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, after the November 2020 general election in which President Joe Biden defeated Trump.

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Jon King
Jon King

Jon King is the Senior Reporter for the Michigan Advance and has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the Past President of the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Association and has been recognized for excellence numerous times, most recently in 2022 with the Best Investigative Story by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Cleary University.