Former President Donald Trump speaks to a capacity crowd at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage on July 9, 2022. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)

Former President Donald Trump speaks to a capacity crowd at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage on July 9, 2022. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)

Alaska among states with lawsuits seeking to make Trump ineligible to run

Federal court complaint filed in September gets more attention after successful Colorado challenge.

Alaska is among the states where federal lawsuits have been filed to declare Donald Trump ineligible for 2024 presidential election, with the three-month-old case now getting more notice from the media in particular following a successful challenge in Colorado against the former president.

The lawsuit filed Sept. 29 in Juneau District Court named Trump and Alaska Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom as defendants. The lawsuit was filed by John Anthony Castro, a tax consultant and longshot Republican presidential candidate from Texas who filed similar challenges in more than two dozen states. Nine remain active after judges in three states dismissed the lawsuits and Castro withdrew them in others.

The court has not yet issued a summons in the case, so the lieutenant governor has not been served in the case, Patty Sullivan, communications director for the Alaska Department of Law, stated in an email Thursday afternoon.

Trump’s eligibility in Colorado was challenged by a group of state voters, with assistance from the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, arguing the former president should be disqualified due to inciting an insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol. Colorado’s Supreme Court ruled 4-3 on Tuesday that Trump is disqualified from appearing on the state’s primary ballot next year. All seven members of the court were initially appointed by Democratic governors.

The decision immediately touched off intense debate about challenges to that ruling as well as similar cases pending in other states.

The language in Castro’s lawsuit in Alaska is boilerplate compared to his others, with scant references specific to the state aside from naming Dahlstrom as a defendant in her role as head of Alaska’s elections.

“Plaintiff John Anthony Castro asks this Court to issue an injunction preventing Defendant Lieutenant Governor from accepting and/or processing Defendant Donald John Trump’s ballot access documentation, including, but not limited to, nominating papers and nominating petitions,” the lawsuit states.

There is also a declaration near the beginning noting the lawsuit making Trump ineligible is necessary “because this state permits write-in candidates and their votes to be counted, ballot placement is not legally determinative of the legal inquiry as to whether an individual is a ‘candidate’ under state law.”

Castro, while absent from most media and other public lists of Republican presidential candidates in 2024, has indeed officially declared his candidacy, which he argues gives him standing to sue Trump.

The legal justification for disqualifying Trump is similar to the arguments in the Colorado case.

“On January 6, 2021, after witnessing a large group of Trump supporters violently attacking the United States Capitol to prevent the lawful certification of the 2020 election results with the goal of unlawfully compelling Donald John Trump’s inauguration on January 20, 2021 (hereafter referred to as the ‘January 6th Insurrection’), Defendant Donald John Trump stated on live television, ‘we love you, you’re very special’ to the insurrectionists. Defendant Donald John Trump provided the insurrectionists with comfort in the form of words of sympathy.”

The lawsuit also contains extensive references to actions and statements by Trump before and after that date.

The Colorado case is the first time an 1868 provision of the Constitution that bars insurrectionists from holding office has been used by a court to keep a presidential candidate off the ballot. Legal analysts quoted in extensive media coverage say the case is certain to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, which is also likely to weigh at least some of the pending criminal cases against Trump.

Litigation filed by Castro and other plaintiffs is pending in 13 states, and challenges are being appealed in two others as of Thursday, according to a report by National Public Radio.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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