On January 29, 2024, Associate Justice Frank M. Gaziano of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, sitting as a single justice, denied an emergency petition by individual Massachusetts voters challenging Donald Trump’s eligibility to appear on the state’s presidential primary and general election ballot. The challengers are a mix of Republican, Independent, and Democratic voters and include former Boston Mayor Kim Janey and two leading law professors. They are represented by Free Speech For People (FSFP) along with nationally recognized litigator Shannon Liss-Riordan of the Massachusetts-based civil rights firm Lichten & Liss-Riordan, P.C.

The appeal followed a decision by the Massachusetts Ballot Law Commission that it does not have the jurisdiction to consider the challenge. The appeal asked the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to either declare Trump ineligible or to order the Commission to conduct immediately all proceedings necessary to issue a ruling on the merits by the statutory deadline of January 29, 2024.

The statute says that “The commission shall have jurisdiction over and render a decision on any matter referred to it, pertaining to the statutory and constitutional qualifications of any nominee for, national … office; [or] the certificates of nomination or nomination papers filed in any presidential … primary.” Another provision refers to “Objections to certificates of nomination and nomination papers for candidates at a presidential primary.

Justice Gaziano, acting as a single justice, denied the emergency petition on the basis of Massachusetts state law. He ruled that, under Massachusetts law, Trump is not scheduled to appear on the Republican primary ballot pursuant to “nomination papers” or a “certificate of nomination,” and hence the Ballot Law Commission lacks jurisdiction. He did not rule on any of the central issues surrounding Trump’s disqualification.

The challengers plan to immediately appeal the single justice’s decision to the full Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Every state that has addressed the merits of Trump’s qualifications under Section 3 has found that he engaged in insurrection after taking the oath of office and is therefore disqualified from the presidency. The Colorado Supreme Court and Maine’s Secretary of State have established that Trump incited and engaged in the January 6th insurrection and is therefore ineligible to hold future public office under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, also known as the Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause. On January 28, 2024, a Republican former state court judge, sitting as a hearing officer for the Illinois State Officers Electoral Board, recommended the board find that Illinois state law does not allow the board to decide the question, but that if it does reach the merits, that Trump in fact incited and engaged in the January 6th insurrection and is therefore ineligible to hold future public office under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Read the single justice’s decision here.

Read more about our Massachusetts challenge here.

Read more about our nationwide efforts to ban constitutionally disqualified insurrectionists like Donald Trump from public office here.