On the eve of his wife’s US Senate campaign kickoff, lawyers for Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration are defending Donald Trump’s right to appear on the state’s ballot in 2024.
As Governor Phil Murphy’s wife, Tammy Murphy, prepared to launch her campaign for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate, the administration found itself immersed in a legal battle over the eligibility of former President Donald Trump to appear on New Jersey’s ballot in the 2024 elections.
Tammy Murphy, a lifelong Republican from Virginia who donated $95,000 to the GOP during the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign in 2004, but has never held or sought elected office, is expected to declare her candidacy today in an attempt to exploit the scandal swirling around Senator Robert Menendez.
In the case of Bellocchio v. Way, et al., the attorney representing the Murphy administration, Deputy Attorney General Adam W. Marshall, submitted a comprehensive legal defense asserting the former president’s right to appear on the state’s ballot.
The lawsuit, filed by citizen John Bellocchio, alleges Trump’s involvement in the January 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection as grounds for barring his candidacy pursuant to Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.
The legal brief, filed with Superior Court Judge Robert T. Lougy in the Mercer Vicinage, outlines the administration’s position on various fronts.
The Murphy administration’s defense contends that Bellocchio failed to address key arguments raised in the state’s motion to dismiss the case and overlooked the statutory framework for challenging election petitions in New Jersey.
Moreover, the Murphy administration claims the case is premature as if Trump’s eligibility under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment should be decided when time is tight for election officials to prepare and mail sample ballots.
President Joe Biden slammed Trump for describing his political opponents as “vermin,” after the GOP frontrunner echoed phrases used in Nazi Germany.
A judge on Tuesday ruled Trump can appear on the primary ballot in Michigan, delivering a setback to those who contend the former president incited an insurrection that bars him from running for elected office again.
The Murphy administration argues that the court lacks jurisdiction at this stage because the Secretary of State’s office reviews petitions and determines objections according to established procedures despite the fact that this situation is groundbreaking.
Bellocchio’s assertion that New Jersey statutes render a person ineligible to run for president if convicted or under indictment for a crime is challenged by the defense, which claims no such statute exists. The plaintiff is criticized for failing to explain potential actions by the Secretary under this law and for not justifying why the court, rather than the Appellate Division, should handle any review.
As the legal battle unfolds, the political undertones of the case have not escaped notice.
Bellocchio criticized Governor Phil Murphy for supporting Trump’s ballot access despite ideological differences.
“Phil Murphy, who wants us to elect his supposedly Liberal wife to the Senate, is fighting to ensure fellow billionaire Trump has a place on New Jersey’s ballot, while the Attorneys General in other states, notably Colorado, stood mute and awaited the ruling of the Court,” said Bellocchio.
An appeal is expected and could ultimately be resolved by the Michigan Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court. The case mirrors those in other states that contend Trump cannot run because of a provision of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment that bars officials from holding office if they engage in an insurrection.
Michigan Judge James Robert Redford wrote that courts don’t have the power to determine whether someone is eligible to run for office under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. In addition, Redford ruled that Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson does not have the authority under state law to remove candidates from the ballot based on that provision.
Redford issued three opinions, in response to two lawsuits brought by Trump’s opponents and a countersuit filed by Trump. His rulings came a week after the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in a similar case that Trump could not be removed from the primary ballot in that state. Both lawsuits were brought by voters with the assistance of the liberal group Free Speech for People.
A Colorado judge is expected to rule this month in another case. Trump opponents have been bringing their lawsuits state by state in hopes of ultimately securing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that keeps the leading Republican candidate off the ballot in all states. The cases are moving quickly because caucuses and primaries will be held starting in January.
The case is scheduled to return to court on November 17, 2023, where Judge Robert T. Lougy will weigh the arguments presented by both sides in determining the fate of Donald Trump’s potential appearance on New Jersey’s ballot in 2024.