Appeals Court Upholds 14th Amendment Ban On Insurrectionists

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“A federal appeals court has ruled that the 14th Amendment’s bar on insurrectionists holding office may be applied to current/future political candidates,” journalist Kyle Cheney reported on Tuesday. The conclusion stemmed from a challenge to the eligibility for re-election of Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), who was targeted over his ties to what went down on January 6 last year.

The News & Observer, a North Carolina publication, noted earlier Tuesday — before that ruling emerged — that “the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals will at least rule on whether the challenge is moot, and may also rule on the broader legal arguments surrounding the 14th Amendment that the challengers have cited, as well as a pro-Confederate amnesty law from the 1870s that Cawthorn has cited in his defense.” The original argument against Cawthorn’s eligibility for re-election hinged on provisions in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution restricting individuals involved in insurrection from running for office. Previously, as reported here, federal Judge Richard E. Myers II concluded an 1872 law removing political restrictions for individuals involved in the Confederacy also covered Cawthorn, but whether the law applied to hypothetical current/ future individuals tied to insurrection wasn’t settled.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has now apparently rejected the line of reasoning Myers previously accepted, finding current/ future candidates can be covered by the 14th Amendment rules for dealing with insurrection-tied individuals. Edward Erikson, a spokesman for Free Speech For People — one of those behind the challenge to Cawthorn’s eligibility to run for re-election — recently indicated his group intends to keep the legal challenge going although Cawthorn lost his primary. “Cawthorn himself may run for office in the future; so may others involved in the January 6, 2021 insurrection who previously took an oath of office,” Erikson said. There’s already another federal judge who’s reached conclusions similar to those the appeals court did: federal Judge Amy Totenberg, dealing with proceedings related to a challenge to the eligibility for re-election of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), remarked in reference to that 1872 law that she doesn’t “think that the Amnesty Act likely was prospective,” meaning she wasn’t inclined to believe that the law was meant to protect current/ future insurrectionists.

Ron Fein, legal director for Free Speech for People, blasted Myers’s original decision after the judge released it: “According to this court ruling, the 1872 amnesty law, by a trick of wording that — although no one noticed it at the time, or in the 150 years since — completely undermined Congress’s careful decision to write the insurrectionist disqualification clause to apply to future insurrections… This is patently absurd.”