Supreme Court Faces Crucial Decisions on Trump’s Legal Immunity, Election Eligibility, and Obstruction Charges

Three significant legal issues with far-reaching implications for former President Donald Trump and the upcoming 2024 presidential election are either before the Supreme Court or on their way.

Key questions about Trump’s immunity from prosecution, the extent of an obstruction statute related to charges in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s indictment for alleged interference in the 2020 election, and the potential examination of Trump’s eligibility for office under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment are poised for consideration by the Supreme Court. The justices are under tight deadlines in multiple cases.

In early December, District Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected Trump’s bid to dismiss the 2020 election case, asserting immunity from prosecution due to actions outlined in Smith’s indictment being within the bounds of his office. Chutkan argued that the presidency does not provide a “lifelong ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ pass.”

Last week, Smith sought Supreme Court intervention to expedite consideration of Trump’s immunity question, aiming to maintain the scheduled March 4 trial date. The Supreme Court must promptly decide whether to take on the case or let the D.C. Circuit rule on it first.

The D.C. Circuit has already set oral arguments for January 9, 2024, prompting Trump’s lawyers to caution against a rushed decision. The Colorado Supreme Court’s recent ruling disqualifying Trump from the state’s ballot under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment could add another election-related issue for the Supreme Court to address. Colorado Judge Sarah Wallace had earlier ruled in November that Trump engaged in an insurrection but was not an “officer of the United States” subject to disqualification under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Federal judges have previously dismissed similar attempts to exclude Trump from ballots in various states. The Supreme Court refused in October to hear an appeal by a 2024 Republican presidential candidate, John Anthony Castro, seeking to remove Trump from the ballot in Florida.

The Colorado Supreme Court has temporarily paused its decision, awaiting Trump’s appeal to the Supreme Court, with the state’s deadline to set Republican primary candidates on January 5. The Supreme Court has also agreed to hear a case on the scope of an obstruction statute (Section 1512(c)(2)) used to charge Jan. 6 defendants, including Trump, for obstructing the certification of President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory. Oral arguments for this case are yet to be scheduled.

As the Supreme Court enters the election year, it faces a docket packed with high-profile cases, including the FDA’s approval of the abortion pill mifepristone and the Biden administration’s collaboration with social media companies to regulate online speech on various issues. These cases are expected to be decided before the end of June.

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