Does Supreme Court’s ruling in Trump’s Colorado case go too far?

  • Supreme Court in 9-0 vote reinstated Trump to Colorado primary ballot
  • 3 liberal judges and 1 conservative, Amy Coney Barrett: Ruling went too far
  • Barrett added focus should not be on disagreement, but court's 'unanimity'
FILE - Members of the Supreme Court sit for a new group portrait following the addition of Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, at the Supreme Court building in Washington, Oct. 7, 2022. Bottom row, from left, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts, Justice Samuel Alito, and Justice Elena Kagan. Top row, from left, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Justice Neil Gorsuch, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

FILE – Members of the Supreme Court sit for a new group portrait following the addition of Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, at the Supreme Court building in Washington, Oct. 7, 2022. Bottom row, from left, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts, Justice Samuel Alito, and Justice Elena Kagan. Top row, from left, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Justice Neil Gorsuch, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

(NewsNation) — While the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision Monday to keep Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on the Colorado primary ballot, some judges on the court said the ruling went too far.

Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson, all liberals, said in a joint opinion that they agree with the final judgment. However, they took issue with the a 5-4 majority saying that states have no power under the Constitution to enforce Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, and that Congress needs to enact legislation to disqualify a candidate for insurrection.

Sotomayer, Kagan and Jackson said this isn’t the case.

“Nothing in Section 3’s text supports the majority’s view of how federal disqualification efforts must operate,” they wrote. “Section 3 states simply that ‘(no) person shall’ hold certain positions and offices if they are oathbreaking insurrectionists.”

Allowing Colorado to kick Trump off the ballot would create a “chaotic state-by-state patchwork,
at odds with our Nation’s federalism principles,” the liberal justices wrote.

Although Monday’s decision was enough to resolve the case, the three justices said the majority went further.

“Although only an individual state’s action is at issue here, the majority opines on which federal actors can enforce Section 3, and how they must do so,” they said. “In doing so, the majority shuts the door on other potential means of federal enforcement. We cannot join an opinion that decides momentous and difficult issues unnecessarily, and we therefore concur only in the judgment.”

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative, agreed the court’s final decision went beyond the scope of what judges were asked to do, but said in an opinion she wrote alone this is not the time to “amplify disagreement.”

“This suit was brought by Colorado voters under state law in state court. It does not require us to address the complicated question of whether federal legislation is the exclusive vehicle through which Section 3 can be enforced,” Barrett wrote.

However, she added, “the Court has settled a politically charged issue in the volatile season of a Presidential election. Particularly in this circumstance, writings on the Court should turn the national temperature down, not up.”

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

The Associated Press reports that it’s not clear if the ruling leaves open the possibility that Congress could refuse to certify the election of Trump or any other presidential candidate that it decides has violated Section 3.

Derek Muller, a law professor at Notre Dame University, told the news outlet that it doesn’t seem that way, as the liberal judges complained that the majority ruling forecloses any other ways for Congress to enforce the provision. Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California Los Angeles, said the Supreme Court ruling is frustratingly unclear on what its bounds might be on Congress.

Hasen was among those urging the court to settle the issue so there wasn’t the risk of Congress rejecting Trump under Section 3 when it counts electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2025.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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