Judicial Juggernaut: The Supreme Court in the Eye of the 2024 Political Storm
Disqualification Lawsuits: Constitutional Dilemmas and 2024 Implications
The coming year will prove historic for the United States Supreme Court…
December 27th, 2023: By, Jeremy Price
The Court will be 'front and center' in the 2024 election cycle, fulfilling multiple roles in the adjudication of legal issues it has never been asked—or required—to decide. The unique level and nature of the 'controversies' making their way to the Court reflect the state of the union, which is poor. The state of the union is not just hyper-partisan; it is, arguably, militantly tribal. Even worse, the union is angry. A lingering dissatisfaction with the 2020 election and abject disgust at the administration's handling of post-2020 election prosecutions—which many view as highly aggressive and overtly biased—have brought the union to the brink. The Nation resembles a tinderbox where both sides of a dystopian political circus believe they are fighting for their very existence. Amidst this, we cannot overlook the fog of the 'COVID pandemic' and the ensuing psychological and economic chaos. Now is not the time to be a jurist with a faint heart. Enter Donald Trump.
Unfortunately for the Court, this 'nightmare docket' during a 'perfect (political) storm' is occurring amid a presidential election season that is virtually guaranteed to surpass expectations in terms of raw, emotional, philosophical, and (unfortunately) physical conflict between the two sides.
The candidacy of Donald Trump is unlike anything we have seen in American history. A clear 'outsider,' he took over a major party by soundly defeating sixteen candidates in the Republican primaries, dominating every news cycle, and eventually winning the White House by defeating Hillary Clinton in 2016. Following his sound electoral vote victory, Clinton and her surrogates made allegations of 'Russian collusion' and an 'illegitimate election.' Trump's presidency was immediately embroiled in a 'special counsel' investigation, which ultimately found no wrongdoing and no evidence of Russian collusion. Contrarily, subsequent investigations revealed that the FBI had misled the FISA court to obtain warrants to spy on the Trump campaign and White House officials, perpetuating the false narrative. In an ironic twist adding more fuel to the fire, one of the lead FBI officials who investigated Trump for 'Russian collusion' has recently pleaded guilty to the same charge. (See Charles McGonigal, former Special Agent in Charge of Counterintelligence in the FBI's New York City field office, who was recently sentenced for working with a Russian oligarch.)
Fast forward to 2020. The election was mired by post-COVID election changes that resulted in tens of millions of unsolicited mail-in ballots being mailed in key swing states. This sparked allegations of illegal ballot harvesting and claims that ballots were printed and delivered in favor of Joe Biden in Democrat-stronghold districts. Mysterious late-night closures of vote-counting facilities and significant voting irregularities, along with hundreds of videos, fueled these allegations. The documentary '2000 Mules' presents a substantial portfolio of evidence to argue that the 2020 election was primarily stolen through ballot harvesting.
Fast forward to 2023. For those who worked for President Trump or protested as private citizens, there’s a significant likelihood of having received a subpoena, been placed on a 'watch list', or even prosecuted for being at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Even Trump's lawyers have faced charges, been ordered to turn over privileged documents, and provide sworn testimony regarding secret attorney-client communications with their client, Donald Trump. Federal law enforcement raided Trump's private residence over a dispute with the National Archives concerning 'top secret' documents. The bottom line, as perceived by Trump and his supporters, is that the federal government has been 'weaponized' against their political candidate and their right to dissent. This belief is so strong that the new Republican Majority in the House has named an entire Committee the 'Weaponization Committee.
If this situation were a test in a political science class on the 'state of this union,' I would argue that our society, grappling with these issues, is clearly in a 'pre-civil war state' where political aggression is being waged through 'law enforcement'. This scenario represents a death spiral for a nation if not swiftly corrected. If the people perceive their institutions as tools of 'lawfare' and oppression, they will inevitably seek remedies outside the legal system and disregard the rule of law.
(I envision a cartoon where the Supreme Court Justices are yelling at the Capitol and the White House, akin to a parent scolding unruly children.)
But now, 'lawfare' has escalated to a new level. The aim of various prosecutions and civil actions, at both federal and state levels, appears to be to keep Trump off the ballot entirely. The intent is not even being concealed. The Colorado Supreme Court recently released a 100+ page decision explaining why all the legal matters pending, along with the 'J6 Committee's' findings, necessitate preventing Trump's name from appearing on their election ballots. This is just one of the unique and monumental legal battles that the Supreme Court will have to consider, placing them squarely in the middle of what could be the single most volatile election season in the entire history of the world's 'Super Power', the largest and most successful republic in human history, the U.S.A.
Aside from the question of whether states can keep his name off the ballot (a scenario I never imagined I would be discussing), here is a list of the major issues the court will decide, relating directly to Donald J. Trump’s candidacy for the Presidency:
In Atlanta, Georgia, the former President and eighteen co-defendants have been charged in a wide-ranging RICO case for allegedly attempting to 'overturn the results of the election'. A conviction on the current charges could result in as much as 20 years in prison for Trump and his associates. Since it's a state prosecution, pardon power lies solely with the Governor, which seems unlikely based on recent behavior.
The U.S. Department of Justice, via Special Counsel Jack Smith, is seeking to imprison Trump for allegedly 'conspiring to stop Congress from performing its duty to certify now-President Joe Biden’s alleged electoral victory in 2020', thereby attempting to 'rob' Americans of their vote. It's noteworthy that there are still a large number of 'unindicted co-conspirators' in this case, with many procedural issues yet to be resolved. For instance, Jack Smith is currently refusing to provide a list of all parties and attorneys involved in the prosecution, which could potentially reveal further 'political entanglement' from the DOJ.
The U.S. Department of Justice, led by Jack Smith, is prosecuting Trump on 37 counts, 31 of which involve alleged violations of the Espionage Act by illegally retaining 'top secret' 'national security' documents.
The Manhattan District Attorney's Office, under DA Alvin Bragg, has investigated the alleged violation of campaign finance laws related to 'hush money' payments to Stormy Daniels, leading to an indictment of Trump on 34 felony counts. Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, who has pleaded guilty to federal campaign violations, is the state’s key witness in this case.
The New York Attorney General's civil case against the Trump family and the Trump Organization alleges wrongdoing through inflated property values to secure bank loans. However, the banks employed their own appraisers, rendering the case seemingly implausible. Nevertheless, the case is moving forward under a judge who appears overtly hostile to Trump as a litigant.
The 'Disqualification Lawsuits'. As previously mentioned, the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled to keep Trump off their ballot. Other states are following suit. The legal issues in these cases hinge on Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, enacted shortly after the Civil War to prohibit anyone who has engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the country from holding an office in the U.S.
THE END GAME
If you are a State Attorney General, a Department of Justice Prosecutor, or even a low-level clerk in the DOJ's office, you would understand and expect that cases of this severity, against a former President of the United States who is also the leading candidate for the Presidency at the time of this writing, will most likely end up in the Supreme Court of the United States through the appeal process. This isn't a novel idea that requires much imagination. Knowing this, and considering the composition of the court, what will happen if the Court, which has a conservative majority including three of the nine Justices appointed by Trump, is forced to make ruling after ruling in Trump’s favor? I'm sure the framers never envisioned such a twisted tale of 'trumped-up' charges (I couldn't resist), directly impacting the administration and outcome of a Presidential election, thus threatening the legitimacy of the Judicial Branch. Yet, here we are.
It is my belief that the left has created this constitutional dilemma, forcing a conservative court filled with Trump appointees, to make decisions that logically should favor Trump, thus enabling them to argue that the Court is illegitimate. Why would they do this? They can't outright abolish the judicial branch, nor can they advocate for chaos and violent upheaval, although some did in the aftermath of the overturning of Roe v. Wade. However, they can push for adding new seats to the court, also known as 'packing the courts'. Joe Biden initially rejected this strategy early in his presidency, being advised that the timing wasn’t right. He implied it wasn’t the appropriate time. But with a conservative court possibly supporting a figure labeled an insurrectionist (paraphrasing left-leaning talking points), the Senate might feel morally justified in adding new seats to the court. And while they're at it, they might also consider making D.C. and Puerto Rico states, effectively packing both the courts and Congress.
Our Nation has never been in greater need of a strong voice for the Constitution and the rule of law than it is right now. The government has evidently adopted a hyper-aggressive legal strategy in both civil and criminal courts, aiming to punish political opposition and directly impact citizens' ability to vote for their chosen candidate. In this context, the Court, as the arbiter of law and the voice of reason and the Constitution, must step in to restore clarity and order to an increasingly raging and out-of-control government and political landscape.