The Arizona Supreme Court on Monday ruled that two Republican congressmen and a state representative should remain on the November ballot after opponents claimed they were ineligible for reelection because they actively participated in the Jan. 6, 2021 breach of the U.S. Capitol.
In its four-page ruling on Monday, the court upheld a lower court decision on the matter that found that only Congress had the power to invoke a 150-year-old law that could be used to disqualify U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and state Rep. Mark Finchem, a Republican, if they had “engaged in insurrection or rebellion.”
The ruling was part of a lawsuit filed against the Arizona lawmakers by individuals who hoped to use a 19th century law adopted after the Civil War to prevent them from holding office under the U.S. Constitution.
The 11 plaintiffs, all individual Arizona citizens, were represented by attorneys with Free Speech for People (FSP), an Austin, Texas-based non-profit and non-partisan organization that describes itself as a “catalyzing leader … challenging big money in politics, confronting corruption in government, and fighting for free and fair elections,” among other issues.
Plaintiffs had appealed the decision by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Christopher Coury to dismiss the case last month, but the court on Monday found that only Congress had the power to disqualify the elected officials and not a private citizen.
“We note that Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment appears to expressly delegate to Congress the authority to devise the method to enforce the Disqualification Clause,” the court wrote in its ruling, signed by Chief Justice Robert Brutinel, “which suggests that A.R.S. § 16-351(B) does not provide a private right of action to invoke the Disqualification Clause against the Candidates.”
Plaintiffs had claimed that Finchem—who is now seeking the secretary of state position in the November elections—was an active participant in the Jan. 6 Capitol breach and coordinated his actions with Gosar and Biggs.
“Finchem was engaged in efforts to intimidate Congress and the Vice President into rejecting valid electoral votes and to subvert the essential constitutional function of an orderly and peaceful transition of power,” they wrote in their complaint.
“Finchem was engaged with the January 6 attack by being in close contact with the planners of the Wild Protest, including throughout the day on January 6, and by participating in the attack with the advance knowledge that it was substantially likely to lead to the attack.
“Finchem promoted the events of January 6 ahead of time. He coordinated many of his efforts with U.S. Representatives Paul Gosar and Andrew Biggs, and agreed with them on a plan to first delegitimatize, then challenge, and finally overturn the 2020 presidential election,” the complaint continued.
The three lawmakers have denied wrongdoing.
“No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof,” the lawsuit said, quoting the Disqualification Clause. “But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”
Gosar took to Twitter to announce the court’s ruling on Monday, writing that “the Democrats lose again and now have to try to beat us at the ballot box,” and that “free speech wins, no ‘insurrection’ no disqualification clause.”
Free Speech for People, which has pursued cases against other prominent Republican figures including Reps. Madison Cawthorne (R-N.C.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), took aim at the court’s decision on Monday.
In a statement to the Washington Examiner, the group said: “The Arizona Supreme Court’s decision betrays the fundamental purpose of the 14th Amendment’s insurrectionist Disqualification Clause and gives a pass to political violence as a tool for disrupting and overturning free and fair elections.”
Similar to the lower court ruling, the high court did not address the allegations regarding the lawmakers’ actions on Jan. 6, 2021.