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Federal judge considers lawsuit to keep Trump off W.Va. ballots

A federal judge is examining a lawsuit about whether former President Donald Trump should be on West Virginia ballots and will determine if the suit should be tossed based on the plaintiff’s standing to file it.

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger filed a memorandum opinion indicating she wants to examine whether plaintiff John Anthony Castro, who says he intends to be on presidential ballots in West Virginia and elsewhere, can actually demonstrate harm.

Berger wrote that it is appropriate “to facilitate more expeditious final resolution.”

Timeliness is important, Berger wrote, because state law indicates candidates in West Virginia must file to run for primary elections between Jan. 8 and Jan. 27, 2024.

She asked the defendants in the case — lawyers for Trump, the state Republican Party and state officials — that their previously filed motions to dismiss would be converted to motions for summary judgment and that the sides could submit supplemental briefs.

The lawsuit was filed weeks ago in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, along with parallel efforts in other states. The man who filed it, Castro, is a write-in Republican presidential candidate from Texas.

The filing touched off a frenzy among Republican political figures in West Virginia, with statement after statement arguing against voters being deprived of Trump as a ballot option.

The concept in the lawsuit is that Article 3 of the 14th Amendment disqualifies federal officeholders who “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” The amendment was passed in 1868 as a Civil War response.

Judges in Michigan and Minnesota in recent weeks have ruled that Trump, the 2024 Republican primary front-runner, can be on the ballot. A remaining major lawsuit seeking to disqualify Trump under Section 3 is in a judge’s hands in Colorado.

In Castro’s case, Trump’s lawyers and others broadly argue that removing the former president from ballots would deprive West Virginians of an electoral option. They also contend Castro can’t demonstrate harm, saying he isn’t a serious candidate.

“In short they contend that Mr. Castro has not suffered a concrete injury because there is no indication that he is in genuine competition for voters in the Republican presidential primary contest,” Berger noted in her memorandum order.

“They further contend that any injury is not traceable to Mr. Trump’s placement on the ballot or redressable by the relief sought, because there is no indication that third-party voters would choose to support Castro if Mr. Trump did not appear on the ballot.”

Castro has filed suit in states, including New Hampshire, Florida, Utah, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Castro is a tax consultant who has run for office several times unsuccessfully. He ran as a Democrat in 2004 for a county court of commissioners position in Texas, finishing fifth of five. He ran as a Republican in 2020 for U.S. Senate from Texas, finishing fourth in a primary behind incumbent John Cornyn. Then in 2021, he ran as a Republican in a special election for House of Representatives, coming nowhere close to winning.

He says he wants to be on the ballot in West Virginia and other states and claims Trump is
inappropriately drawing away potential votes.

Castro responded to Berger’s memorandum order by submitting an 8-page brief intended to demonstrate that he is serious about being on West Virginia presidential ballots.

“I intend to either appear on the 2024 Republican primary ballot in this state or to file
documentation to be a formally recognized write-in candidate in the primary election,” he wrote.

“I have also incurred expenses associated with campaigning in this state, launched by own online show called the Truth Addict, and have digitally targeted voters in this state. As such, I will maintain “standing” throughout the course of this litigation.”