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Colorado News Miner 99

Trump on the ballot, book bans, carpetbaggers, unions and employment, crime, and more.

Copyright © 2023 by Ari Armstrong
December 30, 2023

Updates on Trump's Ballot Battle

I also have notes about this in my last Roundup. This is one of those regional stories that has profound national and global implications.

Republican rhetoric has grown quite dangerous. Kyle Clark reports:

A Republican congressional candidate [Trent Leisy] said Colorado's Supreme Court justices should be arrested and tried for treason for removing Donald Trump from the primary ballot. . . . NBC News reports the FBI is investigating a wave of violent threats against the Colorado Supreme Court justices following their ruling against Trump. Allegations of treason and suggestions of coming violence have come from several prominent figures on Colorado’s far-right, including from the chairman of the state Republican party.

See also an AP story about threats of violence.

Craig Silverman writes about the state Supreme Court decision:

I delved into the weighty 213 pages of Colorado's most famous appellate case ever. A surge of pride swept through me. Our Centennial State may lead this nation out of a dark place. Truth and light triumphed in Colorado. . . . Former President Trump clearly engaged in an insurrection. He's never stopped. We’ve all been witnesses. . . .

[Judge Michael] Luttig concluded our Colorado case 'now becomes the test of America's commitment to its democracy, its Constitution, and to the rule of law.'"

Silverman also interviewed Luttig for his podcast.

Ilya Somin has out a couple more articles about Section 3. He writes:

[Conn] Carroll forgets that Colorado courts unquestionably do have jurisdiction over the issue of whether a candidate is eligible to appear on the ballot in Colorado elections (in this case, the Colorado Republican primary, in which Trump is a candidate, and which is administered by the state government). As the Colorado Supreme Court explained in its ruling, state law requires candidates on the ballot to be legally eligible to hold the office they are running for. And state courts can consider any potential legal grounds for ineligibility—including Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment.

I will repeat my view here that it is absolutely ridiculous and unjust for state governments to run party-specific primaries. But state government has a responsibility to evaluate the eligibility of candidates who appear on its ballots.

Somin also comments on the Maine and Michigan rulings. Here's the summary:

Maine's Secretary of State ruled that Trump is ineligible for the presidency. The Michigan Supreme Court refused to reconsider a lower court ruling allowing Trump to remain on the GOP primary ballot, because state law doesn't limit primary ballot access to allow only candidates eligible for the office they seek.

Quentin Young understandably is upset about Chief Justice Brian Boatright's dissent. Young writes:

His opinion encapsulates a misunderstanding of—or refusal to accept—Section 3 of the 14th Amendment even among some of the nation’s highest ranking jurists, and it reflects the unfolding failure of U.S. institutions to sustain constitutional order in the face of an existential threat.

Jesse Paul and Brian Eason write that the Republican Party asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the state decision:

[T]he filing of the appeal may have the effect of ensuring that Trump will be on the GOP presidential primary ballot in Colorado. The Colorado Supreme Court stayed its decision to keep Trump off the March 5 primary ballot until Jan. 4 or until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on any appeal.

Of course Trump will win the Republican primary vote should he appear on the ballot. (Hell, Trump would win the primary vote even if he died of a heart attack first.) It's not clear to me what happens if Trump appears on the primary ballot, wins that vote, and is declared ineligible.

Rob Natelson has out a thoughtful critique of the state court decision. But I just don't buy his two main arguments. He claims that the president probably is not an "officer" in the relevant sense, which strikes me as ludicrous. The idea is that the president cannot engage in insurrection just by virtue of the fact that he (/she) is the president. Natelson also claims that Trump was denied due process, but that relies on the faulty notion (as Somin explains) that a criminal conviction is required for the Fourteenth Amendment to become active.

Fwiw, Adam Unikowsky thinks it unlikely that the Supreme Court agrees to disqualify Trump (via Volokh).

Brian Eason, Jesse Paul, and Sandra Fish explain the legislative background of the state court decision. In 2016, voters approved a semi-open primary measure. In 2017, the legislature passed a bipartisan "cleanup" bill, Senate Bill 305.

Tucked inside the bill was change to provision 1-4-1204, the part of Colorado's election law that lets voters challenge candidates eligibility to be on the presidential primary ballot. Senate Bill 305 made it so the challenges are filed in district court instead of with the Colorado Secretary of State's Office and that they are brought as part of a legal process outlined in another part of the election code, called section 1-1-113.

Khorram Comments on Book Ban List

In my December 12 column for Complete Colorado, I discussed an effort to ban—as in literally ban, complete with criminal prosecutions—various books in Colorado.

One thing I do in that article is briefly review one of the books on the allegedly "obscene" list, Adib Khorram's Darius the Great Deserves Better. Although it's a novel about teens mostly for a teen audience, I (unexpectedly) very much enjoyed the book. Darius is a wonderful and morally virtuous character. The book is about him navigating the world of dating, his work, tensions and loss within his family, and friendships at school.

Khorram commented about the controversy in his newsletter and about the broader problem of book bans:

[W]hen adults try to say certain topics are "inappropriate" for children, they're making a more insidious claim that certain children are "inappropriate" to exist in school and in public life. Whether it's BIPOC children, or queer children, or disabled children, or children who have been victims of sexual violence, or children who have been incarcerated, or children who deal with (or have loved ones dealing with) substance abuse—children like that exist in every school, and it's the height of moral and intellectual cowardice for book banners to hide behind concerns about "appropriateness" when what they really want to do is erase certain people from public life.

Khorram says he was on a panel discussion where one author said it would be an honor to have one's book banned. Khorram reacted negatively, and explains why:

It's not an honor to have your books banned. It's not an honor to face lost income and lost opportunities. It's not an honor to be called a groomer. It's not an honor to be harassed at airports. It's not an honor to receive death threats. And it's not an honor to be told that your own lived experiences as a child are dangerous and inappropriate for other children to read about in a safe way.

Even though some people do get a lot of publicity over having their book "banned" (usually this means the book is removed from some library or school), Khorram makes an excellent point that many authors are harmed by such actions and do not wish to deal with the controversy.

I respect Khorram for speaking out publicly on the matter.

In related news . . . 9News: Conservatives wanting to ban books showed up at an El Paso county commission meeting to try to persuade commissioners to lean on the District Attorney to pursue criminal charges over allegedly "obscene" books.

Also, CPR reports: "The office of Colorado 4th Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen said Thursday it will not pursue criminal charges against a number of El Paso County school districts after receiving a letter alleging school library books violate federal and state obscenity laws."

In a release, Allen wrote, "The criminal justice system in the United States should not be weaponized against political or social opponents based simply on disagreements, and the misuse of the prosecution process only erodes trust in an essential function of our shared government." Good for him!

Quick Takes

Carpetbagger Boebert: Lauren Boebert plans to drop out of the 3rd Congressional race and run instead in the 4th Congressional, where Ken Buck just dropped out. Ordinarily I'd say that a carpetbagger wouldn't have a chance, but Boebert has more than a suitcase, she has a $1.4 million campaign war chest that she can use to buy publicity and trash her primary challengers. Her leaving gives Republicans a better chance of keeping the 3rd. See also Jason Van Tatenhove's detailed discussion.

McClain's Death: Jacob Sullum writes about the "cascade of ultimately fatal mistakes" leading to Elijah McClain's death. A key point: Police "forcibly interrupted" McClain's walk "for no good reason" and forced "McClain onto the grassy area" "without any legal justification."

Union Laws: Matt Bloom: "A Starbucks store in Superior may have to rehire and provide back pay to a shift supervisor who allegedly lost her job last year over her union support. An administrative judge with the National Labor Relations Board—the country's top labor agency—found the company fired Len Harris in Nov. 2022 due to 'anti-union considerations.'" I don't know why the shop fired the person. Maybe it was just because she was disruptive. Regardless, unless they agree to contractual terms to the contrary, businesses have a right to fire employees for whatever behavioral reason they wish. (I'm talking about the legal rights they properly have, not necessarily the rights that government actually recognizes.) And customers have a right to take into account a business's stance toward unionization when deciding where to spend their money. Government's proper role is to prevent the use of force and thereby to protect freedom of association (which entails freedom of dissociation).

The Problem Is the Criminals: Dillon Thomas: "A Northern Colorado man says he feels fortunate to be alive after being shot in the neck and head, but says he feels the Weld County judicial system is failing to protect him from the suspect. The alleged shooter was released on bond after being charged with attempted murder and was released on bond again just two months later when he was allegedly found to be in possession of a gun again." Shelly Bradbury: "Officials in Aurora launched a new violence reduction program this fall that aims to decrease shootings by focusing attention on the tiny slice of the city’s residents who are the most involved in gun violence: gang members." What a concept!

State Enforcement of Federal Law: George Brauchler explains that, after supporting a "bill [that] gutted the felony charge of possession of weapon by a previous offender," Jared Polis and Phil Weiser then supported "a plan to spend over $600,000 of taxpayer monies to fund state prosecutors to help the feds prosecute federal gun laws" like the possession laws that Colorado used to have. We can talk about what penalties are appropriate for felons caught possessing guns. Using state prosecutors to prosecute federal laws is a grotesque perversion of federalism.

Epps Tossed from Judiciary: Jesse Paul and Sandra Fish: House Speaker Julie McCluskie removed Elisabeth Epps (among others) from the Judiciary Committee, citing "how Epps interrupted the chamber's proceedings on the final day of the special session on property tax and other financial relief as she called for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war." "Democratic Reps. Leslie Herod, Javier Mabrey and Judy Amabile were appointed." Herod is an obvious choice, having worked on important police reforms. Mabrey is a lawyer but, like Epps, aligned with the "democratic socialists." The Colorado Sun reports that the committee may try (again) to pass a so-called "assault" gun ban. If they try, that will be a huge political fight. If the legislature passes such a bill, Polis likely will veto it. If he signs it, the courts almost certainly will throw it out.

Boulder Emergency Program: Nicole Dorfman: Boulder's "Community Assistance Response and Engagement, was presented as another method to respond to non-emergency 911 calls. . . . The CARE team consists of a behavioral health clinician and a paramedic, and includes intensive case management."

Open Government: Jeffrey Roberts advocates a variety of changes. Example: "Require recording of public meetings." Makes sense in the Twenty First Century.

Migrants: Meagan Bean and Penelope Velasco: "Speeding up work authorizations for Venezuelan migrants in Colorado, U.S. would improve health and ease homeless crisis."

Grocery Merger: Although Cory Gardner hardly offers a full-throated defense of free markets in his recent article, at least he questions the Attorney General's priorities in going after the proposed Kroger–Albertsons merger.

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