Federal judge dismisses lawsuit seeking to keep Trump off R.I.’s 2024 ballot 

RHODE ISLAND is the latest state where a federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit that would have prevented former president Donald Trump from appearing on the 2024 presidential ballot. / ASSOCIATED FILE FILE PHOTO / EVAN VUCCI

Rhode Island is the latest state where a federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit that would have prevented former president Donald Trump from appearing on the 2024 presidential ballot.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge John J. McConnell Jr. on Monday dismissed the complaint from John Anthony Castro, a write-in Republican presidential candidate from Texas. The single-paragraph dismissal cites the rationale of a New Hampshire federal judge, who in an Oct. 30 ruling dismissed in a similar appeal on the grounds that Castro lacked standing to bring the claim because his candidacy was not a real challenge.

New Hampshire and Rhode Island were among dozens of states where appeals have been filed – most of them by Castro – to have Trump’s name removed from 2024 presidential primary ballots. Castro has alleged that it is unconstitutional to let Trump’s name appear given his role in the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol, citing an obscure post-Civil War clause of the 14th Amendment which stops prior elected officials from being sworn office again if they “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” 

Defending Trump in the Rhode Island case is Cranston private practice attorney Gregory Piccirilli. He called Castro’s case “nothing more than a loose collection of nonsequiturs” that ”defies the clear logic of the cited case law,” according to court filings. 

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He also argued that it’s up to Congress and the Electoral College, not the court system, to determine who qualifies for the ballot. Moreover, there is “no plausible allegation” that Trump participated in or incited insurrection, according to Piccirrilli’s written response. 

Piccirilli did not respond to inquiries for comment on Tuesday. 

The suit named the state of Rhode Island and Secretary of State Gregg Amore as defendants. In an emailed statement on Tuesday, Faith Chybowski, a spokesperson for Amore’s office, said he was committed to following ballot access laws and court rulings. 

Earlier in November, a Colorado judge ruled that Trump should be placed on the state’s presidential ballot, but conceded that he engaged in insurrection, prompting appeals by both Trump and the group of six voters who filed the original lawsuit. Separate appeals to the Colorado Supreme Court were filed by both Trump and the plaintiffs who brought the case. 

Under state law, Rhode Island’s presidential preference primary is always held on the fourth Tuesday in April. But the General Assembly passed legislation to move up the primary to April 2 in 2024 only to avoid having it fall on the first full day of Passover. 

Nancy Lavin is a staff writer for the Rhode Island Current.

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