1st Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Trump Eligibility Challenge in New Hampshire

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last week, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit challenging former President Donald Trump’s eligibility to appear on New Hampshire’s presidential primary ballot. 

The decision stems from a lawsuit filed by a little-known Republican presidential candidate, John Anthony Castro. Castro is litigating 23 active lawsuits challenging Trump’s eligibility to run for the office of president under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment

Section 3 prohibits the election or appointment of an individual to state or federal office if they previously held such an office, took an oath of office and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the [United States], or [have] given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” Adopted after the Civil War, the amendment precludes any insurrectionist who has served as a member of Congress, state legislator, U.S. military officer or federal or state officer from serving again.

Castro alleged that Trump “provided ‘aid or comfort’ to an insurrection in violation of Section 3 of the [14th] Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and is, therefore, constitutionally ineligible to pursue or hold any public office in the United States.” A district court dismissed Castro’s lawsuit finding that he lacked standing and his claim raised a political question that was not reviewable by the court. Castro immediately appealed the decision. 

Last week, the 1st Circuit affirmed the lower court’s ruling finding that Castro lacked standing to bring his claim: “Thus, on this record, any claim that the former President’s presence on the ballot in the contest at issue will diminish Castro’s votes or contributions is simply too speculative to credit, even allowing for the probabilistic nature of a claim of competitive injury.” Following this decision, Castro filed a request to have his case reheard en banc, or by the entire 1st Circuit. 

Trump remains on the presidential primary ballot in New Hampshire, but he faces similar challenges to his eligibility in 26 active lawsuits across the country. Courts in Colorado, Michigan and Minnesota have ruled that Trump is eligible to appear on each state’s primary ballot. Decisions in Colorado and Michigan were appealed. The Colorado Supreme Court will hear oral argument on Trump’s eligibility on Dec. 6. 

Read the opinion here. 

Learn more about Section 3 of the 14th Amendment here.