The appeals court could soon rule on the January 6 challenge to Madison Cawthorn’s candidacy

The liberal activists, legal scholars and anti-Trump Republicans opposing Cawthorn asked the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to step in and reinstate their lawsuit, which was dropped by a lower court judge earlier this month. Cawthorn spoke at then-President Donald Trump’s January 6, 2021 rally and posted militant tweets in the run-up to the attack.

It’s unclear when the Virginia-based appeals court will consider the matter. Time is up for the anti-Cawthorn challengers ahead of the May 17 North Carolina primary. Some counties will begin printing ballots as early as this week, and the first ballots will be mailed to voters on March 28, according to a spokesman for the North Carolina state electoral commission.

A federal judge in Wilmington, North Carolina, previously ruled that the state-level challenges cannot move forward because Congress essentially castrated the 14th Amendment’s “disqualification clause” with a blanket amnesty law in 1872. The anti-Cawthorn groups blasted the verdict of Chief Justice Richard Myers, an appointee of former President Donald Trump.

“This novel and bizarre interpretation of the law runs counter to the text of the law, basic logic, legislative history and Congress’s own understanding,” the challengers wrote, urging the Circuit Court to block Myers’ verdict and proceed with the state-level appeal as planned.

But Cawthorn’s attorneys say the challengers don’t even have the right to appeal the decision. That’s because they weren’t technically a party to the lawsuit Cawthorn filed against the North Carolina State Board of Elections to halt efforts to challenge his candidacy. So far, state officials have not launched any appeals.

“Free and fair elections and our democratic process are being seriously undermined by allowing state bureaucrats to determine who qualifies to run on the basis of questionable, subjective and false allegations of ‘insurgency,'” Cawthorn’s attorneys wrote in a court filing Monday.

If the appeals court reinstates the candidacy challenge, the focus will shift back to the North Carolina Board of Elections, which would need to appoint a panel to hear the challenge. Cawthorn could be summoned or deposed, and he would have to prove by a “more likely than not” standard that he did not support the January 6 riot or offer consolation to the rioters.

Throughout the trial, Cawthorn has denied wrongdoing and says he is not an insurgent.

The “disclaimer” of the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment states that elected officials who have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution but then “take part in any insurrection or rebellion against it, or give aid or comfort to their enemies.” , are excluded from future offices . But the amendment also said Congress could abolish that penalty with a two-thirds majority.

Congress passed the Amnesty Act of 1872 which said: “All political obstructions imposed … are hereby removed from any person whatsoever.” Cawthorn has argued, and the District Judge agreed, that this applies to all insurgents in perpetuity . The challengers and leading constitutional experts say the law was a one-off amnesty for ex-Confederates.

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