Court rules that insurrectionists can be barred from public office

In a decision released this week, a federal court ruled that political candidates who participate in an insurrection can be prevented from holding public office. 

Plaintiffs point to provision of the 14th Amendment

According to Bloomberg Law, the opinion was handed down on Tuesday by the US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. Its author, Circuit Judge Toby Heytens, pointed to the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which states,

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

At issue is a lawsuit against Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn (NC) claiming that his alleged connection to the events of January 6 made him ineligible to serve in Congress. Cawthorn was defeated in a primary challenge last week.

Bloomberg noted that in his ruling, Heytens rejected the possibility that an 1872 law aimed at rehabilitating former Confederates lifted a “constitutional disqualification for all future rebels or insurrectionists, no matter their conduct.”

The judge, who was nominated last year by President Joe Biden responded by stating, “To ask such a question is nearly to answer it.”

Heytens then went on to send the previously dismissed lawsuit back to a North Carolina district court for additional consideration.

Other Republicans could be affected

As Bloomberg acknowledged, Heytens’ ruling is only binding in the states which comprise his circuit: Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

However, it also pointed out that the decision could influence judges in other states where Republican candidates are facing similar challenges.

One of them is Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. Greene won a favorable ruling when state Judge Charles Beaudrot determined that those challenging her candidacy failed to prove she had taken part in an insurrection.

Others include Arizona Reps. Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs along with state Rep. Mark Finchem, all of whom were also accused of insurrectionary activities.

In a decision earlier this month, Arizona’s highest court rejected an attempt to keep the trio from seeking reelection.

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