Supreme Court opinion on the Trump 14th Amendment ballot case

The Supreme Court’s decision to bar states from knocking Donald Trump off the ballot generated considerable confusion about where each of the justices stood on the fraught question of the former president’s eligibility for a second term.

To begin with, the court handed down what’s known as a “per curiam” opinion, a Latin term that translates to “by the court.” Such opinions are relatively rare and are sometimes used to signal consensus — even though such opinions are not always unanimous.

Per curium opinions are “unsigned,” which means that unlike most opinions, the public doesn’t know who wrote them and can’t always glean the vote count. 

Per curiam opinions have faced criticism from some quarters for that very reason: They allow the court to resolve controversial issues without explicitly making clear their authorship. Among the most notable per curiam opinions in the court’s history was the Bush v. Gore decision, which effectively settled the election 2000 election for President George W. Bush.

Adding further confusion to Monday’s decision were the “concurring” opinions that at times looked likely sharply worded dissents. The court unanimously sided with Trump and against Colorado for the prospect that an individual state can’t knock a presidential candidate off the ballot under the 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist ban.” Despite the unity, there was considerable disagreement about some of the court’s reasoning.

What that meant is that while Trump won unanimously, the court split apart on some of the reasoning in a way that looked much closer to a 5-4 vote.  

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