A new lawsuit filed in Utah by a long shot Republican presidential candidate attempts to bar Donald Trump from appearing on the 2024 presidential ballot, arguing the 14th Amendment disqualifies him from office.
John Anthony Castro, a Texas tax attorney who is running for the 2024 Republican nomination, filed the lawsuit Wednesday afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah. Castro is listed as the plaintiff, while Trump and Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson are the defendants.
The lawsuit argues that Trump “engaged” in insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, in an effort to thwart the peaceful transfer of power via “financial fundraising, expressions of sympathy with the insurrectionary movement, and promises of pardons for those who violently attacked our United States Capitol.”
Castro requests a “declaratory judgement that Donald John Trump is disqualified” from office under the 14th Amendment, as well as an injunction against Henderson “to prevent the acceptance and/or processing of any ballot access documentation” for Trump in both the primary and general elections.
Utah’s lieutenant governor serves as the state’s chief election officer. A spokesperson for Henderson declined to comment until they had “time to review the lawsuit.”
Castro’s argument requires an interpretation of the 14th Amendment that is catching steam in legal circles. A pair of law professors associated with the Federalist Society wrote a paper last month claiming that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment “disqualifies” Trump from office, and “can and should be enforced by every official, state or federal, who judges qualifications.”
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment says that any officeholder, after taking an oath to support the U.S. Constitution, is disqualified from holding office after engaging “in insurrection or rebellion” against the Constitution or giving “aid or comfort to the enemies thereof,” unless Congress pardons them with a two-thirds vote.
The argument has been praised and criticized by other Republican presidential candidates. Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson supported the argument during the first presidential debate, saying that Trump is disqualified from holding office “under our rules and our Constitution.”
Hutchinson doubled down in the post-debate spin room. When asked if Trump was really “ineligible” for office, Hutchinson answered affirmatively.
“The answer is yes,” he said. “But more importantly, will a secretary of state make that determination, and will the court make that determination?”
But entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy denounced the argument Thursday afternoon, saying the court filings were “just the latest in a string of baseless lawsuits designed to silence political opponents and swing the election for Joe Biden, this time by depriving Americans of the right to vote for their candidate of choice.”
“This is a perversion of the 14th Amendment,” Ramaswamy said in a statement.
Having tried just about every trick in the book to eliminate President Trump from running in this election, the left is now deploying a new tactic to bar him from ever holding office again: the 14th Amendment. As someone who is now polling in second or third place in most major…— Vivek Ramaswamy (@VivekGRamaswamy) September 7, 2023
Castro has filed similar lawsuits in Florida, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and several other states. A liberal group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a lawsuit Wednesday attempting to bar Trump from the ballot in Colorado, citing the same constitutional clause.
Castro filed as a Republican candidate in the 2024 election in December 2022. Several news organizations have called him an “attorney,” though he is not listed in the Texas bar directory and he claimed in a recent lawsuit that he “is not and has never been licensed to practice law in any state.” He has a Juris Doctorate from the University of New Mexico School of Law and a Master of Laws from the Georgetown School of Law.
Castro has been accused of embellishing his resume. Georgetown barred him from a job fair, claiming Castro wrongfully claimed to have been a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Castro sued the school, but a federal judge in Texas tossed the lawsuit.
Other election-related lawsuits have gone through the District of Utah. Two Utah brothers filed a lawsuit last year claiming that President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, former Vice President Mike Pence and hundreds of members of Congress committed treason by supporting a peaceful transfer of power, and attempted to install Trump as president. It was appealed to the Supreme Court, but the court rejected it twice.