The case was first ruled on by a lower court judge on November 17, who decided that Trump could remain on the ballot. This decision sparked appeals to the higher court by the petitioners. Trump's attorneys also appealed the lower court ruling, arguing that while the judge allowed Trump to stay on the ballot, the ruling was accompanied by the assertion that Trump was an "insurrectionist" who instigated the January 6 riot at the Capitol building.
During the hearing, Justice Melissa Hart questioned Eric Olson, the attorney representing the petitioners, about the implications of Trump's removal from the ballot for independent and Republican voters in the upcoming primary election, scheduled for March 5, 2024.
Justice Hart queried, "So Mr. Olson, should we be concerned about that, as we think about the Republican citizens of Colorado or unaffiliated folks who want to cast a ballot in the Republican primary, if what you’re saying is correct, President Trump will be on the ballot in most states, but not here in Colorado." She further added, "So effectively, the Republican or unaffiliated voter who wants to participate in the presidential primary, Republican primary won’t really be able to participate because the person who’s on most ballots and appears to be leading in the primary is not an option."
Responding to Justice Hart, Olson pointed out that "other states have different mechanisms," and highlighted that California allows for post-election challenges when there’s an unqualified candidate. "So just because there's not a pre-election qualification dispute under the law, doesn't mean there won't be a post-election one," he stated.
Olson expressed his and his group's concern about this situation, stating that their clients, who are Republicans and independents, initiated the lawsuit because they desire a fair opportunity in the Republican primary to vote for a qualified candidate. He characterized the lawsuit as a "pro-democracy" and "pro-Colorado voter perspective."
Scott Gessler, Trump's representative, argued that the numerous cases, both ongoing and potential future ones, represent a "patchwork where voters are going to be treated differently and affected across the country." He refuted the allegations that Trump incited an insurrection or provoked the crowd on January 6 to attack the Capitol to prevent the certification of Joe Biden's presidential election. The 14th Amendment, enacted after the Civil War, prohibits a person from holding office if they had engaged in insurrection.
Engaging in a debate with the justices over the definition of insurrection, Gessler argued, "it’s more than a three-hour riot on one building." He further elaborated, "If you look at historically in the context of how insurrection was used, I mean, it has to be for a substantial duration, not three hours. There has to be some geographical scope. There has to be a goal of nullifying all governmental authority in an area."
Gessler urged the court to uphold the lower court ruling, "but also strike the dicta from the decisions beyond that court’s jurisdiction."
District Judge Sarah Wallace of the lower court had ruled that Trump had incited insurrection by instigating the January 6 riots, but stated that the 14th Amendment's clause on holding office after engaging in "insurrection or rebellion" did not apply to the office of the president.
Both Trump’s team and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which filed the initial complaint, have appealed to the state’s high court. Trump’s team has contested several of Wallace’s findings, including the assertion that he "engaged" in the January 6 riot.