Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) has lost yet again after a three-judge panel reversed an earlier district court’s decision to block an attempt to bar Cawthorn from running for re-election.
In a copy of the decision, initially published by POLITICO, Judge Toby Heytens wrote in his opinion:
“We hold that the 1872 Amnesty Act removed the Fourteenth Amendment’s eligibility bar only for those whose constitutionally wrongful acts occurred before its enactment. Accordingly, we reverse the district court’s grant of injunctive relief and remand for further proceedings.”
After previously seeking relief under the 1872 Amnesty Clause, Cawthorn now claims that his lawsuit is moot – he lost the May 17th North Carolina GOP Primary to challenger Sen. Chuck Edwards and won’t be representing his party in the general election. The judge disagrees, citing the lack of certification of the primary winner at the time of his ruling.
In January, a little over a year after the Capitol insurrection, 11 North Carolina voters – with the assistance of voter advocacy group Free Speech For People – filed suit with the North Carolina Board of Elections seeking to disqualify Cawthorn’s candidacy for violation of Article Three of the Fourteenth Amendment. The plaintiffs claimed that the freshman Congressman’s speech preceding the storming of the Capitol amounted to insurrection. The legal director for Free Speech For People, Ron Fein, told The Hill:
“As set forth in our complaint, the publicly available evidence, including Representative Cawthorn’s own statements and reports that he or his office coordinated with the January 6 organizers, establish reasonable suspicion that Representative Cawthorn aided the insurrection, thereby disqualifying him from federal office.”
Before the decision granting an injunction in Cawthorn’s favor in March, Cawthorn announced his intent to leave his current 11th district, and run in the newly drawn 13th. This prompted voters in the new district to file challenges to his candidacy, mirroring those filed by his current constituents, including Laurel Ashton, who would be central to the District Court’s current decision.
A preliminary injunction was issued on March 4th and became permanent on March 10th. The judge also issued a denial of the challenger’s request for a stay of the injunction, and Ashton’s request to intervene, with the court noting that “events since the district court’s denial of intervention—including filings before this Court—reveal that circumstances may have changed.” The court also asserted that North Carolina’s redrawn electoral maps disqualified the previous challengers and rendered their participation in the suit moot. That left Laurel Ashton as the only plaintiff with standing in the suit whose filing was within the parameters of the court.
In Tuesday’s opinion, Judge Heytens recognized Ashton’s right to bring the complaint, calling the denial of Ashton’s request to intervene “a clear error in judgment” and “an abuse of discretion.”
The court did not say whether or not they believed that Madison Cawthorn is an insurrectionist, nor whether preventing him from running for office under Article Three of the Fourteenth Amendment is a violation of his First Amendment right to free speech, as he asserts. The court is very explicit in saying:
“We hold only that the 1872 Amnesty Act does not categorically exempt all future rebels and insurrectionists from the political disabilities that otherwise would be created by Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment. The judgment of the district court is therefore: REVERSED, VACATED, AND REMANDED.”
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision is another blow to the Cawthorn’s fragile ego and career and another win for democracy. The decision sets a much-needed precedent with the 2022 midterms coming up – with many of the 147 Republicans who voted against certifying President Joe Biden’s win up for re-election. The January 6th Committee hearings are also coming up, and, as the walls close in on the insurrectionists and conspirators, this decision may very well be what ultimately saves this country from the deadly tyranny of wanna-be insurrectionists.
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