One year later – “What the litigation path of eligibility challenges to Donald Trump may look like”

Just about one year ago, in November 2022, I wrote the following:

If I had a crystal ball into the future of litigation surrounding Donald Trump’s candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, I would project something like this: In January 2024, administrative tribunals in Illinois and New Hampshire will issue the first decisions on the merits examining whether Trump is eligible to appear on the ballot for the presidential primaries. Those will be the first merits decisions in a torrent of litigation with an unknown future.

I’m doing pretty well–so far, however, we’re likely to see merits decisions in Colorado, Michigan, and Minnesota in late November or early December 2023, as all three see hearings over the next couple of weeks. (I hadn’t anticipated that state courts would offer fairly generous ripeness considerations here, in ways that haven’t necessarily happened in the past.) I had some other thoughts in the piece that held up well, such as the fact that most viable challenges would be in state not federal court, and including:

It’s not clear how this process plays out. It’ll certainly be truncated (the amount of time between a nomination paper filing deadlines and the printing of ballots is usually pretty tight), scattershot, and uncertain. Often, the initial review is not in front of a judge, but a single administrator or panel of an election board, with rather opaque evidentiary requirements. It’s possible that the only way this is resolved on an effectively-national level is (1) some state supreme court excluding the candidate after rapid review through the state administrative and judicial process, and (2) the United States Supreme Court granting cert to review the lawfulness of that exclusion.

Of course, a “scattershot” and “uncertain” approach is not an ideal one, but it’s the one we’re experiencing.

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