Madison Cawthorn
Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

A federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that those who engaged in an insurrection could be barred from running for office in the future. The decision comes from a challenge to Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), who lost his election just a week ago.

A judge had previously ruled in Cawthorn's favor, citing an 1872 amnesty law passed by Congress. But the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that ruling.

"To ask such a question is nearly to answer it," the court filing said. "Consistent with the statutory text and context, we hold that the 1872 Amnesty Act removed the Fourteenth Amendment’s eligibility bar only for those whose constitutionally wrongful acts occurred before its enactment. Accordingly, we reverse the district court’s grant of injunctive relief and remand for further proceedings."

The appeals court didn't weigh in on whether Cawthorn should be banned from running for office. "We express no opinion about whether Representative Cawthorn in fact engaged in ‘insurrection or rebellion’ or is otherwise qualified to serve in Congress,” the ruling stated.

They also said in the footnote that Cawthorn suggested that the issue didn't matter because he was going to lose anyway. The court argued that it did matter.

"Nevertheless, based on the record before us, this appeal is not currently moot in an Article III sense because a primary winner has not yet been certified and it does not appear the challengers have withdrawn their challenge," the ruling read.

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In the case of Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), she wasn't charged with being involved in the attempt to overthrow the government. If she is charged in the future by the Justice Department and convicted, this ruling holds that she could be barred from running for office.

The same is true in Arizona, where a Maricopa County judge ruled that the petitioners didn't have the standing to challenge candidates in court. There is no law that gives individuals the private right of action to sue to stop them from running. It's unclear if that means any other entity could. That was appealed to the state Supreme Court, which withheld the ruling.

In North Carolina the law is different. According to the court, it allows "[a]ny qualified voter registered in the same district as the office for which [a] candidate has filed or petitioned” to file a challenge with the state board of elections asserting “that the candidate does not meet the constitutional or statutory qualifications for the office."

Arizona doesn't have that law on its books.

There were questions about whether former President Donald Trump disqualified himself from office by calling for a "Civil War" on his new social media site. Legal analyst Seth Abramson suggested that Trump's call bolsters an "already-strong case" that he should be disqualified for running for any future office.

Read the full court decision here.

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