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Legal challenges are being mounted in several states against former President Donald Trump, arguing he should be prohibited from holding office under a little-used section of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The legal theory behind the challenges cites Section 3 of the 14th Amendment which bars from office anyone who has previously taken an oath to defend the Constitution and has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion.” Trump’s involvement in encouraging his supporters to riot at the Capitol, proponents of the theory say, disqualifies him from seeking the presidency.

Additionally, Trump's efforts to overthrow the results of the 2020 election by unlawful means, from on or about November 3, 2020 through at least January 6, 2021, constituted a "rebellion" under Section 3: an attempt to overturn or displace lawful government authority by unlawful means, the challengers assert.

Trump has been accused by federal prosecutors of taking illegal actions that led to the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, but he has not been tried or convicted.

Section 3 is a provision “no one has ever paid much attention to” since the 14th Amendment was added to the Constitution three years after the end of the Civil War, - 160 years ago - noted Rutgers University Newark law professor Ronald Chen, questioning how far this legal challenge can actually go.

Just days ago, the push to bar Trump from the 2024 ballot came to New Jersey, with Mahwah resident John Bellocchio arguing the former president is constitutionally prohibited from running for office because of his role in the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The complaint, filed in New Jersey Superior Court in Mercer County, names Lt. Gov. Tahesha Way, who is also the secretary of state, and Donna Barber, the director of the state’s elections divisions, as the defendants. Way is responsible for accepting candidate filings and reviewing their compliance.

John Bellocchio, a former history teacher who is behind the New Jersey challenge to Trump’s ballot eligibility, said he’s ready for the online vitriol headed his way from Trump supporters. He said he urges them to read the Constitution and vote for another qualified candidate. 

“You want to nominate a Republican? Pick one, you got plenty. You got 13 of them. Pick one, nominate one, but not the insurrectionist. Not the man who let a crowd loose on the Capitol that resulted in the death of five,” he said.

However, just as soon as his pro se petition was filed, it was tossed out - at least for now.

Bellocchio filed a motion for Order To Show Cause, seeking emergent relief enjoining and restraining the defendants from placing Trump on the ballot as well from placing any intentional surrogate representing Trump on the ballot.

Under the 1982 case known as Crowe v. DeGioia, the New Jersey Supreme Court articulated the following four standards in which a Motion for Emergency Relief can be granted:

1. The moving party will suffer irreparable harm if the requested relief is not granted;

2. The legal right underlying the moving party’s claim is settled;

3. The moving party has a likelihood of prevailing on the merits of the underlying claim; and

4. When the equities and interests of the parties are balanced, the moving party will suffer greater harm than the respondent will suffer if the requested relief is not granted.

Judge Robert Lougy immediately denied the proposed order to show cause, citing court rules that require a party seeking interlocutory reliefs to submit a brief in support of that application, and Plaintiff did not file a brief.

Even if defendant proceeds as a self-represented litigant, she is expected to comply with the requirements of the Rules of Court. “Procedural rules are not abrogated or abridged by a party’s pro se status.” Rosenblum v. Boro. of Closter.

The denial is without prejudice, and the plaintiff is free to refile but his application for restraints must be complete with the required brief, Judge Lougy wrote.

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