Quentin Young

(Colorado Newsline) A lawyer for plaintiffs who are suing to block former President Donald Trump from the 2024 Colorado presidential ballot persuaded a judge to enter a protective order for witnesses and other people involved in the lawsuit, largely based on Trump’s history of “inflammatory” statements around other cases in which he is a defendant.

Denver District Court Judge Sarah B. Wallace during a Friday hearing said she had concerns for the “safety for the parties, for the lawyers and frankly for myself and my staff, based on what we’ve seen in other cases.”

After special counsel Jack Smith in June filed an indictment against Trump for alleged crimes around Jan. 6, Trump responded on Truth Social, “If you go after me, I’m coming after you!” which prosecutors viewed as “inflammatory” and “intimidating.”

The plaintiffs’ lawyer who argued for the protective order, Sean Grimsley, also noted during the hearing before Wallace that Dave Williams, chair of the Colorado Republican Party, which this week joined the case as a so-called intervenor, called the filing of the Colorado lawsuit against Trump “treasonous” behavior.

“That’s code for, ‘The folks coming to court have committed a capital crime,'” Grimsley said.

The protective order bars “inflammatory” speech, based on remarks during the hearing.

The suit was filed Sept. 6 by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington on behalf of six Colorado voters, who argue Trump is disqualified under a provision of the 14th Amendment that bars certain office-seekers who have engaged in insurrection.

The plaintiffs include former Republican U.S. representative from Rhode Island Claudine (Cmarada) Schneider, who now lives in Colorado; former Colorado House and Senate Majority Leader Norma Anderson, an unaffiliated voter who recently left the Republican party; Denver Post columnist and Republican activist Krista Kafer; Michelle Priola, Kathi Wright, and Christopher Castilian.

They argue Trump, the leading GOP candidate for president in 2024, is disqualified under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which says no person who took an oath to support the Constitution then had “engaged in insurrection … or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof” can hold any office in the United States.

The suit says Trump “tried to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election” and incited and “engaged in” the Jan. 6 insurrection.

The defendants are Trump and Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat.

Most of the Friday hearing concerned procedural matters. Trump’s lawyer in the case, Scott Gessler, a former Republican Colorado secretary of state, indicated he intends to try to get the case tossed under a recent Colorado law that protects people who exercise First Amendment rights from the threat of lawsuits — known as an anti-SLAPP law. The allegations against Trump in the case are all “based on his speech,” Gessler said.

“We believe it’s a winner,” Gessler said of the pending motion under anti-SLAPP — or “strategic lawsuits against public participation.”

Gessler had objected to the proposed protective order by arguing that witness tampering and intimidation are already outlawed and that Trump critics had also engaged in objectionable speech. He noted that Griswold has said Trump tried to “steal an election” and labeled the events of Jan. 6 an “insurrection.”

“That is definitely coming from other quarters,” Gessler said of what Grimsley had called “inflammatory” speech.

A five-day trial in the case is scheduled to start Oct. 30.

The case is seen as the first major test of the 14th Amendment’s disqualification clause since the Civil War era. Other similar cases, such as one filed by Free Speech For People in Minnesota, are expected in other states.