The Maine Supreme Court has deferred ruling on whether to uphold or overturn the Maine Secretary of State’s ruling that former President Donald Trump is ineligible to appear on the 2024 primary ballot under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, also known as the “Insurrection Clause.” “
Judge Michaela Murphy of Kennebec County Superior Court wrote in a 17-page opinion Wednesday that she wanted to “promote consistency and avoid voter confusion” ahead of the state’s March 5 primary by declining to rule on “unprecedented cases” that had already been scheduled for consideration. In a separate case before the US Supreme Court.
Murphy denied the Trump team’s appeal of Secretary of State Sheena Bellows’ December decision and his motion to stay the court proceedings, but he also stayed Bellows’ ruling pending the outcome before the US Supreme Court.
The nation’s highest court said on January 5 that it would consider a similar challenge to Trump’s 14th Amendment outside Colorado, after that state’s Supreme Court ruled that the former president was ineligible for the primary ballot under the disqualification clause.
The US Supreme Court set the date for oral arguments on February 8.
Murphy ordered Bellows to issue a new ruling on Trump’s qualifications within 30 days of the US Supreme Court’s decision on the 14th Amendment challenge out of Colorado. Murphy ruled that Bellows must then either confirm, modify or withdraw her previous decision.
Bellows, a Democrat, on December 28 ruled that Trump was ineligible to participate in the state’s 2024 primary ballot due to actions surrounding the violence at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, finding that he violated Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.
Bellows’ order upheld appeals from three Maine politicians and one state resident: former Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling; former state Sens. Kim Rosen, a Republican, and Tom Savello, a former Republican turned independent; and resident Mary Ann Royal, all of whom argued that the former president was ineligible under Section 3.
“Ultimately, we are pleased with the court’s decision to leave the Secretary’s ruling intact: that Trump is an insurrectionist and that the 14th Amendment applies. We will decide next steps soon,” Strimling said in a statement.
Trump has strongly denied any wrongdoing and quickly appealed Bellows’ decision, just as he appealed a court ruling in Colorado that he participated in the January 6 insurrection.
Bellows decided to “suspend the effect” of her decision until Maine state courts rule on Trump’s appeal. Trump’s legal team then asked the Maine state court to postpone consideration of Bellows’ ruling until after the US Supreme Court rules on the Colorado case.
Trump’s team claimed the secretary of state was a “biased decision-maker who should have recused herself and otherwise failed to provide due process” and had no “legal authority” to consider the appeal.
The wide-ranging legal maneuvering underscores the gravity of the issue now before the courts: whether Trump’s conduct related to Jan. 6 amid his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss disqualifies him from running for president again.
He has faced a number of such challenges, several of which have failed despite success in Colorado and Maine, leading to the ongoing legal battle.
In her ruling last month, Pellow said she “recognized” that no secretary of state had “deprived a presidential candidate of access to the ballot based on Article III of the Fourteenth Amendment” but balanced that with what she said was the nature of Trump’s actions.
“However, I also recognize that no presidential candidate has ever participated in an insurrection.”
This article originally appeared on abcnews.go.com