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Federal judge shuts down attempt to keep Madison Cawthorn off ballots

Cawthorn faced challenges to his eligibility to run for federal office with opponents citing the 14th Amendment, Article 3
Published: Mar. 4, 2022 at 1:40 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 4, 2022 at 1:41 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A federal judge has ruled that efforts to keep Congressman Madison Cawthorn off North Carolina ballots in the upcoming election are invalid, citing the Amnesty Act of 1872.

The case was heard by Judge Richard E. Myers, the Chief District Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina who was appointed by former President Donald Trump in 2019.

Cawthorn faced challenges to his eligibility to run for federal office with opponents citing the 14th Amendment, Article 3 which reads:

“No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”

The group, Free Speech for People, challenged Cawthorn’s candidacy and argued his behavior surrounding the the events of the attack on the United States Capitol on January 6 made him ineligible.

Attorney for Cawthorn, Jim Bopp, disagreed and said the attempt to keep Cawthorn off the ballot is unconstitutional.

“The disability involved in under the 14th amendment which says that people who had engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States was disqualified from holding office, including Congress,” Bopp said.

Ultimately, Bopp’s arguments relied on the Amnesty Act of 1872, a federal law that reversed many of the penalties imposed by the 14th Amendment following the Civil War.

“The plain language, you just can’t get over the plain language. The political disabilities imposed by the 14th amendment which was to preclude people who had engaged in an insurrection or rebellion from holding a public office like congress, that that act in 1872 waived that disability from everyone except for a few exceptions,” he said.

When asked if he believed that anyone could commit an act of insurrection and be excluded from 14th Amendment, Bopp clarified there are some people it would still apply to.

“Under the 1872 Act, it continues to apply that the disability continues to apply to certain categories. So there’s still categories of leaders of anything like that, that would still be disabled,” Bopp said.

Some of those categories include military officers who participate in an act of insurrection; however, in the broad sense, most people would be excluded from the 14th Amendment’s prohibitions.

Although the ruling was in his favor, Bopp said it should be up to legislators to decide if they want to change the law.

“Just like they didn’t have this act before the Civil War, they could fix this, all they have to do is — it may be as simple as passing a statute that repeals the 1872 act, it may be another constitutional amendment, but this can be fixed if people feel like this is an important thing to do,” he said.

Author’s Note: This is an ongoing story which will be updated, check back later for more.

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