The judge hearing a case to keep former President Donald Trump off of Colorado’s Republican primary ballot next year has refused a request from Trump’s legal team to recuse herself from the case.
The request was made after attorneys representing the former president learned of a donation by Denver District Court Judge Sarah B. Wallace to a group called the Colorado Turnout Project, according to Colorado Politics.
“Its website proudly proclaims that the group was formed ‘shortly after Colorado Republicans refused to condemn the political extremists who stormed the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021,’” attorney Scott Gessler wrote in the motion seeking Wallace’s recusal, filed Saturday.
Given the organization’s background and stated goals, Gessler said, “A contribution to the Colorado Turnout Project shows support for the view that January 6, 2021, constituted an ‘insurrection.’”
Wallace, who donated $100 to the group prior to becoming a judge, disagreed.
“I can assure all of the litigants that prior to the start of this litigation and to this day, I have formed no opinion whether the events of Jan. 6 constituted an insurrection,” Wallace said in response to the motion.
She also claimed to have no opinion as to whether Trump had “engaged in an insurrection or, for that matter, any of the issues that need to be decided in this hearing.”
That said, she also didn’t deny having made the contribution just over a year ago, though she argued that such a donation was not common practice for her.
“I do not dispute that on (October 15, 2022), prior to taking the bench, I apparently made a $100 contribution to the Colorado Turnout Project. That being said, prior to yesterday, I was not cognizant of this organization or its mission,” she said.
“It has always been my practice, whether I was entirely successful or not, to make contributions to individuals, not PACs (political action committees),” she added.
The question of whether Trump’s actions on Jan. 6, 2021, amounted to an “insurrection” is likely to be central to the case currently before Wallace.
Of the the issues to be decided is whether Trumps should be barred from the primary ballot in Colorado under the 14th Amendment, which prohibits anyone anyone who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the U.S. Constitution from holding elected office.
“No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof,” Section 3 of the amendment reads. “But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”
Colorado bans judges from making political contributions, according to the report, but that rule applies only to judges and “judicial candidates,” according to the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct Rule 4.1.
The plaintiffs in the case argued that Wallace was neither a judge nor a candidate in October when she made the donation, but Colorado Politics pointed out that her appointment to the bench had been announced the previous August.
The case, Anderson et al. v. Griswold, was expected to wrap up this week, although the probably timing for a decision from the judge was not reported.
The 2024 Colorado Republican presidential primary is scheduled for March 5.