The Maine Supreme Judicial Court in 2016 in the ceremonial courtroom attached to the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal, file

Maine’s highest court on Wednesday dismissed an appeal from the secretary of state asking the court to weigh in on her decision to ban former President Donald Trump from the state’s presidential primary ballot.

In a written decision, the justices of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court said they would not take up Secretary of State Shenna Bellows’ appeal of a lower court’s decision that she reconsider the issue after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a similar case out of Colorado.

The justices wrote that the decision out of Kennebec County Superior Court was not a final judgment and that they typically adhere to rules requiring a trial court’s decision to be final before they would consider an appeal.

“We would run a high risk of issuing an advisory opinion if we decided the matter on the merits before a final judgment has been entered,” they wrote.

They also rejected an argument Bellows had made Tuesday in which she said that following the Superior Court’s order could result in voter confusion around the March 5 primary.

“Indeed, there is at least as great a risk of additional process and delay if we consider this appeal and reach an ostensibly final decision, and then the Supreme Court’s decision makes additional court or administrative action necessary to comply with the federal law it announces with no clear path for resolution,” the panel of seven judges wrote.


A spokesperson for Bellows did not respond to a phone message or email seeking reaction to the decision Wednesday night.

The Trump campaign, which had urged the court to wait for the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, celebrated the decision in a statement saying, “This evening, in Maine, Crooked Joe Biden was dealt a devastating blow in his desperate attempt to remove President Trump’s name from the ballot and to deprive tens of millions of Americans of the right to vote for the candidate of their choice.”

Maine Supreme Court .01.24.24 by Maine Trust For Local News on Scribd

Maine’s high court also rejected an appeal from the three former state lawmakers who originally challenged Trump’s eligibility for the ballot before Bellows.

Ben Gaines, an attorney for challengers Ethan Strimling, Kimberly Rosen and Tom Saviello, said that while they were disappointed by the court’s decision, they were happy to see Bellows’ original decision left intact pending the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

The challengers, like Bellows, had argued to the court that state statute provides a process by which the court could take up an appeal and that to not do so could draw out the timeline for resolution if the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t resolve the Maine case.



“The secretary and attorney general had some good reasons to think this (appeal) was required by statute, but I think either way for us is OK,” Gaines said. “We are very proud of Secretary Bellows for the courage she showed in looking at the facts and now we’re just going to have to wait and see what the U.S. Supreme Court does.”

The decision came after Bellows filed notice of appeal of the Superior Court’s decision Friday. In arguments filed Tuesday, she urged the court to take up the case of Trump’s appeal of her decision to ban him from the ballot based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits people from holding office if they have engaged in insurrection against the United States.

The U.S. Supreme Court case is widely expected to influence the outcome of challenges to Trump’s ballot access in Maine and other states, but Bellows noted Tuesday that it’s not guaranteed since the court could rule on narrower Colorado-specific grounds or decline to issue a decision.

“If (the U.S. Supreme Court’s) decision does not direct an outcome in this case – and it may not – the Superior Court’s remand will result in an almost complete restart of the (state) process in mid-February at the earliest,” Bellows said.

Attorneys for Trump have argued that Bellows did not have the authority to issue a ruling on his eligibility, that Section 3 does not apply to the presidency or those seeking to run for office – but rather those who hold office – and that the former president did not engage in insurrection.

They’ve also said that waiting until the U.S. Supreme Court rules will likely resolve many of the questions at issue in Maine.

The Trump campaign appealed Bellows’ original decision after it came down at the end of December and a few days before the U.S. Supreme Court said it would take up a similar case out of Colorado. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the Colorado case, Trump v. Anderson, on Feb. 8.

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