Maine Secretary Asks Court to Rule on Trump Eligibility Ahead of Supreme Court Decision

Maine Secretary Asks Court to Rule on Trump Eligibility Ahead of Supreme Court Decision

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Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows has appealed the Maine Superior Court decision to defer to the U.S. Supreme Court on matters of former President Donald Trump’s eligibility as a candidate.

On Jan. 17, the court had disagreed with Ms. Bellows and wrote that the high court could well address all of the issues raised in the Maine challenge to President Trump’s eligibility. On Jan. 19, Ms. Bellows filed a notice of appeal, which had a deadline of three days after the court issued its decision.

The notice is a procedural form and does not include merit arguments.

The secretary was given until Jan. 23 at 4 p.m. to file a memo up to 15 pages on why the appeal should not be “dismissed as interlocutory,” likely referring to the Supreme Court decision.
Previously, Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey had argued that the U.S. Supreme Court decision may only address the Colorado Supreme Court ruling that President Trump has appealed. Mr. Frey also argued that impending deadlines to finalize the state primary ballot warrant a swift decision from the court, though any decision issued would likely have been appealed until it reached the Supreme Court again.

“The Secretary agrees that there are many overlapping issues between this case and the Anderson case now before the U.S. Supreme Court,” he wrote in a filing on behalf of Ms. Bellows’ office. “While Mr. Trump appears to assume that he will prevail in the Supreme Court, the mere fact that the Supreme Court has taken the case does not guarantee that its decision will definitively resolve this matter.”

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“The Supreme Court could, for example, affirm the Colorado Supreme Court decision,” he argued. “It likewise could rule on a specific point, e.g., that the Colorado courts ran afoul of the Electors Clause … by not adhering to the timeframes set forth in the Colorado Statute.”

The high court may decline to rule at all, he added, and end up putting Maine in a “precarious position.”

Issues of Timing

In the event that the Supreme Court does not resolve the matter before Maine’s March 5 primary, Ms. Bellows intends to lift the stay of her decision—thus removing President Trump from the ballot. By this time, early voting ballots would have already been mailed out.

“And then precious additional days would be spent litigating whatever legal issues, be they of state or federal law, remain in this case,” Mr. Frey wrote. “All the while, absentee voters would continue to fill out ballots with Mr. Trump’s qualification still in doubt.”

“Voters in the Republican primary, including those who had already cast a vote by that point, may therefore also suffer harm,” he wrote. “This is an untenable, and avoidable, outcome.”

While asking the Maine court to move forward with a ruling, which it ultimately did when it ordered the secretary to defer to the Supreme Court, Ms. Bellows also pointed out that she had already agreed to pause her removal of President Trump from the ballot pending a higher court decision.

Challenges to President Trump’s eligibility as a candidate have been made under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment in 30 states across the country already. While most state secretaries have declined to take an official position on the candidate’s eligibility for a presidential primary, Ms. Bellows had argued that Maine law makes it her duty to do so, even if it meant adjudicating issues of “insurrection.”

“Mr. Trump knowingly incited an attack on the Capitol to prevent the peaceful transfer of power. The record is such that the Secretary—consistent with the deferential standard of review—permissibly concluded that Mr. Trump engaged in insurrection and is accordingly not qualified for the office of the President by operation of Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment,” the secretary stated in a court filing opposing President Trump’s appeal of her decision.

Allegations of Bias

Shortly before Ms. Bellows was set to issue her decision, President Trump requested she recuse herself from the process citing several social media posts she made supporting his impeachment and referring to Jan. 6, 2021, as an “insurrection.”

She declined, and in court filings Mr. Frey pushed back against the allegation, defending Ms. Bellows’ use of “insurrection” because “it was common parlance at the time.”

“Members of both parties referred to January 6 as such, and it was how the news media described what transpired,” he wrote. “Furthermore, neither of the ‘insurrection’ tweets suggest that the Secretary prejudged the specific issue in this case, namely whether the events of January 6, 2021, constitute an insurrection based on that term’s meaning in Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Ms. Bellows was highly critical of President Trump’s defenses in the Maine proceedings, describing them as “specious,” “without merit,” and “generalized,” and faulted him for not adhering to the timelines set by Maine law in bringing up various arguments in court but not before her office.

“The sooner that Mr. Trump’s qualification for office is settled, the fewer voters who risk voting for a candidate who is unqualified, or who decide to vote for an alternate candidate given the potential of the disqualification.”

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