Is it possible for a registered voter, on behalf of the Voters of the United States, to sue Trump for violation of the 14th Amendment?

  • 2
    The standard interpretation of "can I sue" questions is "can I sue and stand a reasonable chance of winning", not just "can I file paperwork". You stand no chance of winning, so no.
    – user6726
    Aug 25, 2023 at 15:28
  • 2
    As written the question is unclear, but I think it could be turned into a reasonable question about standing in election cases. For instance: if a congressional district map was just gerrymandered so as to minimize the influence of Black voters on elections, can a private person sue? Do they need to be Black, or to be present in a district that was recently redrawn? Can the court order a redrawing of the whole state map, or just the district that the plaintiff is from? etc.
    – KFK
    Aug 25, 2023 at 15:50
  • 1
    The first two comments do not bother to analyze any laws, and predictably get the answer wrong. Constitutional torts are, indeed, litigated every single day. And the certainty that there is no chance of winning is quite unjustified, given the lack of explanation of what 14th Amendment theory OP is imagining pursuing.
    – bdb484
    Aug 25, 2023 at 15:50
  • 2
    @Curious It's not really possible to give a useful answer with this little information. It would be useful to explain how you believe Trump has violated the 14th Amendment and what you'd like a court to do about it.
    – bdb484
    Aug 25, 2023 at 15:51
  • 1
    @IKnowNothing it is possible in some circumstances to sue a government official to compel a certain act, no tort or crime needed. For example, a person born in the US could sue a government official who refused to recognize the person's US citizenship; this refusal could be characterized as a violation of the 14th amendment.
    – phoog
    Aug 25, 2023 at 21:41

1 Answer 1


When people attempted to file such lawsuits against Barack Obama (citing a conspiracy theory which falsely claimed his birth certificate was a forgery, or in one case, based on a legal theory that any other country in the world could disqualify someone from the Presidency by granting them dual citizenship) and John McCain (due to his having been born in the Panama Canal Zone) the lawsuits were thrown out for lack of standing.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals held:

[Plaintiff] lacks standing to bring this suit because he has suffered no injury particularized to him. A prerequisite of standing is that the litigant has suffered or will suffer an injury in fact that is caused by the complained-of conduct by a defendant and that can be redressed by the court.

The Ninth Circuit also decided that neither a taxpayer, a voter, a state representative, a military officer, nor someone claiming to be a relative of the President had standing, citing the U.S. Supreme Court that “[W]hen the asserted harm is a ‘generalized grievance’ shared in substantially equal measure by all or a large class of citizens, that harm alone normally does not warrant exercise of jurisdiction.” Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 499 (1975) (citation omitted)

Other cases were similarly dismissed by the Eleventh Circuit and the D.C. Circuit, and in several states. The Supreme Court declined to hear any of them, without comment.

These cases do leave one avenue for an eligibility challenge, under existing law. To quote the Ninth Circuit in the same case above, Drake v. Obama:

Plaintiffs cite a case from the District of New Hampshire, Hollander v. McCain, for the proposition that “a candidate or his political party has standing to challenge the inclusion of an allegedly ineligible rival on the ballot, on the theory that doing so hurts the candidate’s or party’s own chances of prevailing in the election.” 566 F. Supp. 2d 63, 68 (D.N.H. 2008). This notion of “competitive standing” has been recognized by several circuits. See, e.g., Tex. Democratic Party v. Benkiser, 459 F.3d 582, 586-87 & n.4 (5th Cir. 2006) (political party has standing because “threatened loss of [political] power is still a concrete and particularized injury sufficient for standing purposes”); Schulz v. Williams, 44 F.3d 48, 53 (2d Cir. 1994) (political party representative has standing because his party may “suffer a concrete, particularized, actual injury—competition on the ballot from candidates that . . . were able to avoid complying with the Election Laws and a resulting loss of votes”) (internal quotation marks omitted); Fulani v. Hogsett, 917 F.2d 1028, 1030 (7th Cir. 1990) (third-party presidential candidate had standing because the allegedly improper placement of the major-party candidates on the ballot resulted in “increased competition” that required “additional campaigning and outlays of funds” and resulted in lost opportunities to obtain “press exposure” and win the election).

We, too, have upheld the notion of “competitive standing.” In Owen v. Mulligan, we held that the “potential loss of an election” was an injury-in-fact sufficient to give a local candidate and Republican party officials standing. 640 F.2d 1130, 1132-33 (9th Cir. 1981)

However, they ruled that it was too late to sue once the election is over and the President has already been sworn in. (Indeed, one of the criminal charges against Donald Trump in the District of Columbia is that he attempted to prevent the formal counting of the Electoral College vote on January 6, 2021 because it was necessary to cast some doubt on that to keep his legal challenges alive.)

  • In my opinion, such a challenge against Donald Trump under the Insurrection Clause, even if brought by someone who had standing, would be extremely unlikely to succeed on the merits, but you did not ask about that.
    – Davislor
    Aug 26, 2023 at 15:55

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