DENVER (AP) — The Colorado judge overseeing the first significant lawsuit to bar former President Donald Trump from the state’s 2024 presidential ballot on Friday issued a protective order prohibiting threats and intimidation in the case, saying the safety of those involved — including herself and her staff — was necessary as the groundbreaking litigation moves forward.
“I 100% understand everybody’s concerns for the parties, the lawyers, and frankly myself and my staff based on what we’ve seen in other cases,” District Judge Sarah B. Wallace said as she agreed to the protective order.
The order prohibits parties in the case from making threatening or intimidating statements. Scott Gessler, a former Colorado secretary of state representing Trump in the case, opposed it. He said a protective order was unnecessary because threats and intimidation already are prohibited by law.
It was sought by lawyers for the liberal group Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which is seeking to disqualify Trump from the ballot under a rarely used Civil War-era clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Gessler said heated rhetoric in this case has come partly from the left.
“We do have robust political debate going on here,” he said. “For better or worse, this case has become a focal point.”
Dozens of lawsuits have been filed around the country seeking to disqualify Trump from the 2024 ballot based on the 14th Amendment clause barring anyone who swore an oath to the Constitution and then “engaged in insurrection” against it from running for office. Their arguments revolve around Trump’s involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol to halt the congressional certification of the 2020 presidential election.
The case in Colorado is the first filed by a group with significant legal resources. The issue is expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, which has never ruled on the insurrection provision in section three of the 14th Amendment.
Wallace has set an Oct. 30 hearing to discuss whether Trump needs to be removed under Colorado law prohibiting candidates who don’t meet qualifications for higher office from appearing on ballots. She has said she wants to give the Colorado Supreme Court — and possibly U.S. Supreme Court — as much time as possible to review the decision before the state’s Jan. 5 deadline to set its 2024 presidential primary ballot.
A parallel case in Minnesota filed by another well-financed liberal group is scheduled to be heard by that state’s supreme court on Nov. 2.
Trump’s attorneys are scheduled to file two motions to dismiss the lawsuit later Friday. One will contend the litigation is an attempt to retaliate against Trump’s free speech rights. Wallace has set an Oct. 13 hearing to debate that claim.
Sean Grimsley, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the case, proposed the protective order in court Friday. He cited federal prosecutor Jack Smith last week seeking a gag order against Trump for threats made in his prosecution of the former president for trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.
“At least one of the parties has a tendency to tweet — or Truth Social,” Grimsley said, referring to Trump’s own social network where he broadcasts most of his statements, “about witnesses and the courts.”