Today, the Michigan Court of Claims denied plaintiffs’ requests for declaratory and injunctive relief in LaBrant v. Benson, the lawsuit brought by Free Speech For People and election lawyer Mark Brewer of Goodman Acker P.C. on behalf of a diverse group of Michigan voters who filed a legal challenge to Donald Trump’s candidacy. The complaint was filed against Secretary Benson of Michigan, calling on her to exercise her obligation under the U.S. Constitution and Michigan law to disqualify Trump from office for having engaged in insurrection and rebellion against the U.S. Constitution that began in late 2020 and culminated in the violent insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The Michigan Court of Claims decision did not address Trump’s conduct engaging and leading rebellion and insurrection against the Constitution, including the insurrectionist attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Instead, the court relied on Michigan law to avoid a hearing on the merits. Specifically, the court ruled that under Michigan state law, “the ultimate decision” of which presidential candidates may appear on the ballot “is made by the respective political party, with the consent of the listed candidates,” and neither the Secretary of State nor the court has any role in the state-run primary election if the party chooses to list a candidate who would not qualify for the office.

The court then adopted a discredited theory that claims that only Congress can decide whether a presidential candidate fails to meet constitutional qualifications for office. Its opinion stated that Congress can resolve this question on January 6, 2025 (or possibly January 20, 2025), conceding that this is “unsettling,” but opining that it was only “speculative” that the U.S. Supreme Court could promptly answer a constitutional question on an urgent election timeframe. (The Michigan court relied heavily on what it called a “well-thought-out analysis” in a New Hampshire case that relied on overruled cases and where the judge admitted that he could not find the relevant legal precedent.)

We are disappointed by the trial court’s decision, and we’re appealing it immediately,” said Ron Fein, Legal Director of Free Speech For People, an attorney for the petitioners. “The Michigan Supreme Court should reverse this badly-reasoned lower court decision. While our appeal is pending, the trial court’s decision isn’t binding on any other court, and we continue our current and planned legal actions in other states to enforce Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment against Donald Trump.

The plaintiffs will file an immediate appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals. Further, they will ask the Michigan Supreme Court to bypass the Court of Appeals, take up their appeal directly, and enforce Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Court’s decision is disappointing but we will continue, by appealing this ruling, to seek to uphold this critical constitutional provision designed to protect our republic” said Brewer. “Trump led a rebellion and insurrection against the Constitution when he tried to overturn the 2020 presidential election and he is disqualified from ever seeking or holding public office again.

While it pursues this appeal, Free Speech For People will continue its planned challenges in other states to enforce Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment against Trump and bar him from presidential primary and general election ballots.

In response to today’s decision by the Michigan Court of Claims in LaBrant v. Benson, Constitutional Accountability Center Vice President Praveen Fernandes said:

The Court’s conclusion that the voter challenge turns on a nonjusticiable political question is profoundly disappointing. The Court takes pains to state that “the judiciary does not avoid questions because they are nuanced, complex, or difficult,” but then appears to do exactly that. Courts can adjudicate—and have adjudicated—disqualification based on Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment. More troublingly, the Court today cloaks its position in deference to Congress, stating that ballot disqualification “strips Congress of its ability to ‘by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such a disability.’” But this is not true—Congress could have acted in the past, just as Congress can act tomorrow, to remove the disqualification. Unlike its actions with the passage of the 1872 and 1898 Confederate Amnesty Acts, Congress has chosen not to insulate from accountability insurrectionist officers who took part in the actions of January 6, 2021.

Constitutional Accountability Center Appellate Counsel Smita Ghosh added:

The Framers of Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment were clear about who could remove a disqualification—both chambers of Congress by a supermajority vote.  In contrast, these same Framers set no limit on who could impose disqualification, allowing for a variety of actors, including state and federal courts, to enforce the Amendment’s important protections.  In concluding otherwise, today’s decision is at odds with the text and history of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Constitutional Accountability Center filed an amicus brief in the case.

To read the Michigan Court of Claims decision, click here.

To learn more about this case, click here.