A left-wing group’s challenge to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-Ga.) candidacy in this year’s elections based on claims she violated the Constitution’s Disqualification Clause by engaging in a supposed insurrection against the U.S. government may be allowed to move forward, a federal judge indicated.
This insurrection supposedly culminated in the Jan. 6, 2021 security breach at the U.S. Capitol in which supporters of then-President Donald Trump delayed the congressional certification of the 2020 presidential election results for several hours. Democrats and some Republicans characterize the disturbance, from which some elected officials took cover, as an insurrection or coup attempt aimed at overthrowing the U.S. government, a claim that has been adamantly denied by Trump and his supporters.
Greene, an outspoken supporter of former President Donald Trump, represents Georgia’s 14th congressional district. Greene is known for making strongly worded, often controversial statements.
Supporters of a nonprofit called Free Speech for People filed a challenge (pdf) March 24 with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican. The challenge alleged Greene “aided and engaged in an insurrection to obstruct the peaceful transfer of presidential power, disqualifying her from serving as a Member of Congress under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment and rendering her ineligible under state and federal law to be a candidate for such office.”
The rarely invoked Disqualification Clause in Section 3 of the 14th Amendment was enacted in the wake of the Civil War to keep former Confederates out of Congress.
Raffensperger referred the challenge to the state’s administrative court, the Office of State Administrative Hearings (OSAH), which assigned the case to Administrative Law Judge Charles Beaudrot. On April 3, Greene moved to dismiss the challenge. A hearing before Beaudrot is scheduled for April 13.
But on April 1, Greene also filed a federal lawsuit seeking to halt the challenge on constitutional grounds. The petition in the case, Greene v. Raffensperger, court file 1:22-cv-01294, was filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta.
On April 8, U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg of the Northern District of Georgia reportedly said during a hearing on the federal suit that she has “significant questions and concerns” regarding a recent ruling in a similar case that blocked a Disqualification Clause-based challenge against Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.).
Totenberg was appointed by then-President Barack Obama and is the sister of NPR legal correspondent Nina Totenberg. The judge said she will rule on the matter this upcoming week, possibly April 11, which is two days before the state-level hearing before Beaudrot.
The challenge brought by Free Speech for People claims Greene cannot serve in Congress because “before, on, and after January 6, 2021, Greene voluntarily aided and engaged in an insurrection to obstruct the peaceful transfer of presidential power, disqualifying her from serving as a Member of Congress under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment and rendering her ineligible under state and federal law to be a candidate for such office.”
Greene’s attorney, James Bopp Jr., told the federal court the challenge consisted of “50 pages of newspaper articles, hearsay and political hyperbole,” according to CNN. If the challenge is allowed to move forward, it will embolden left-wing groups to try to disqualify Trump from running for president in 2024.
Bopp, who represented the Cawthorn case, said at the hearing no one has been charged with insurrection related to Jan. 6, “despite all the resources of the Justice Department and FBI.” He added that booting Greene from the ballot would be the same as “stripping voters of their right to vote and upending democracy right before an election.”
Greene vigorously denies the claims in the challenge and argues that the state law governing election challenges is unconstitutional because it shifts the burden of proof from accuser to accused. She noted in court filings that when a candidate in Georgia is challenged “by a qualified voter based upon a mere belief that a Candidate does not meet the constitutional or statutory qualifications for the office … the ‘entire burden’ is placed upon the Candidate ‘to affirmatively establish his eligibility for office.’”
Shifting the evidentiary burden violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, she argues. “Here, Rep. Greene is required to produce countervailing evidence to prove a negative (i.e., she did not engage in an insurrection), based upon nothing more than the Challenger’s ‘belief.’”
The challenge statute also “usurps the U.S. House of Representative’s power to make an independent, final judgment on the qualifications of its Members,” so it violates Article I of the Constitution,” she argues.
The Epoch Times reached out repeatedly to Ron Fein, legal director of Free Speech for People, but had not received a reply as of press time.