Explainer-What is next for Donald Trump at the US Supreme Court?

By John Kruzel and Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday seemed poised to rule in favor of former President Donald Trump in a legal fight over whether he is eligible to remain on the ballot as he seeks to regain the presidency despite his actions around the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack by his supporters.

It may not be the only Trump case the court will consider this election year. Trump also is expected to go to the Supreme Court by Monday to contest a lower court’s decision rejecting his claim of immunity from criminal charges related to his attempts to overturn his 2020 election loss.

Here is a look at what is next.


During arguments in the Colorado case, Supreme Court justices signaled that they were inclined to rule in favor of Trump in his appeal of a Dec. 19 ruling by Colorado’s top court to disqualify him from the state’s Republican March 5 primary ballot under the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment after finding that he participated in an insurrection.

Conservative and liberal justices alike expressed concern about states having the power on their own to disqualify a presidential candidate without Congress first passing legislation that spells out how the Constitution’s disqualification provision should be enforced.


The Supreme Court has moved briskly in Trump’s appeal of the Colorado court ruling. Within days of Trump filing for appeal, the justices took up his case, announced rapid deadlines for legal briefs and scheduled arguments for just over a month later.

Colorado voters who had challenged Trump’s eligibility urged the court to rule before the state’s March 5 Republican primary election, part of the state-by-state race for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the Nov. 5 general election.


How the court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, handles Trump’s appeal in the Colorado case is likely to determine whether similar efforts underway in states including Maine will succeed or fail.

The Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling marked the first time that Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment – the so-called disqualification clause – had been used to deem a presidential candidate ineligible.

The justices potentially could set a nationwide precedent squarely answering the question of whether Section 3 bars Trump’s eligibility due to his actions involving the Capitol attack. Under such a scenario, state courts would apply the Supreme Court’s ruling in deciding any disqualification bids.

But the justices have other options as well, including a ruling announcing that Congress must first pass a law before a state can enforce the disqualification clause against a candidate. Such an outcome would effectively shift the question of Trump’s eligibility to federal lawmakers.


While the Colorado case governs Trump’s ballot presence, the Supreme Court’s potential future decision on his criminal immunity assertion could have election implications as well. According to Reuters/Ipsos polling, Republican voters have said they would be less likely to cast a ballot for Trump if he were to convicted of a crime. He has been indicted in four separate cases.

The court’s ruling in the Colorado case may not telegraph how the justices might resolve his immunity claim.

The justices also have agreed to decide whether a man involved in the Capitol attack can be charged with obstructing an official proceeding – the congressional certification of the 2020 election results. That case has potential implications for the prosecution of Trump, who faces the same charge in one of the four criminal cases.

(Reporting by John Kruzel; Editing by Will Dunham)