‘Message’ To America

Barrett Sides With Fellow Conservatives On Trump Ruling But Suggest Overreach

President Joe Biden speaks with Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett as he arrives to deliver his State of the Union speech to a joint session of Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

In the unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision on Monday that former President Donald Trump can remain on the 2024 presidential ballot in Colorado, Justice Amy Coney Barrett sided with liberal justices in her concurring opinion, saying that the majority’s ruling went too far.

The decision strikes down the Colorado Supreme Court ruling that found Trump ineligible for the ballot due to Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which contains a clause banning people who “engaged in insurrection” from holding office. The state high court said he violated the amendment through his alleged involvement in attempts to overturn the 2020 election and the subsequent Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the “responsibility for enforcing” the 14th Amendment’s “insurrection” clause “against federal officeholders and candidates rests with Congress and not the States.”

The court said that “the text of the Fourteenth Amendment, on its face, does not affirmatively delegate such a power to the States.”

“These are not the only reasons the States lack power to enforce this particular constitutional provision with respect to federal offices,” the opinion continued. “But they are important ones, and it is the combination of all the reasons set forth in this opinion—not, as some of our colleagues would have it, just one particular rationale—that resolves this case. In our view, each of these reasons is necessary to provide a complete explanation for the judgment the Court unanimously reaches.”

The three liberal justices – Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson – agreed with the majority’s judgment but offered a separate concurring opinion, writing, “Although we agree that Colorado cannot enforce Section 3, we protest the majority’s effort to use this case to define the limits of federal enforcement of that provision.”

Barrett wrote in her own separate concurring opinion that she thinks the court only needed to determine whether states lack the power to enforce the insurrection clause. “It does not require us to address the complicated question whether federal legislation is the exclusive vehicle through which Section 3 can be enforced,” she wrote.

“For present purposes, our differences are far less important than our unanimity: All nine Justices agree on the outcome of this case. That is the message Americans should take home,” she also said.