Role of Illinois Circuit Court Judge Misrepresented in Post About Trump’s Removal from Ballot

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Quick Take

The Supreme Court ruled that states may not remove former President Donald Trump from primary ballots based on the Constitution’s insurrection clause. A few days before the ruling, an Instagram post claimed a “traffic court judge” had ruled Trump shouldn’t appear on Illinois’ ballot — misrepresenting Tracie Porter’s role as an Illinois circuit court judge.


Full Story

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on March 4 that former President Donald Trump can remain on the 2024 presidential primary ballot in Colorado.

As we’ve written, challenges have been filed in at least 36 states to strike Trump from primary ballots, based mainly on the insurrection clause, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which bars “an officer of the United States” from seeking elected office if they had “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the country.

The Colorado Supreme Court had ruled that Trump engaged in insurrection and was ineligible to appear on the state primary ballot, based on the 14th Amendment. Trump’s legal team appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the president was not one of the officials covered by that section of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court, in a unanimous March 4 decision, overturned the Colorado ruling. While the justices cited different legal reasons, a majority wrote that “the Constitution makes Congress, rather than the States, responsible for enforcing Section 3 against federal officeholders and candidates.” The court didn’t weigh in on the question of whether Trump had engaged in insurrection.

Police officers stand outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 8. The court was hearing oral arguments in the case on whether or not Trump could remain on the ballot in Colorado for the 2024 presidential election. Photo by Julia Nikhinson via Getty Images.

Maine’s secretary of state and an Illinois judge were among those who had said that Trump is ineligible to appear on their states’ presidential primary ballots because of his attempts to overturn his loss in the 2020 election. But the Illinois judge and a Maine Superior Court justice deferred those rulings until the Supreme Court’s decision on the Colorado case.

In Illinois, where early voting in the primary was already underway, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Tracie R. Porter, a Democrat, said in her 38-page ruling on Feb. 28: “The Illinois State Board of Election shall remove Donald J. Trump from the ballot for the General Primary Election on March 19, 2024, or cause any votes cast for him to be suppressed.”

After Porter’s ruling was announced, a Feb. 29 Instagram post by Ryan Fournier, a co-founder of Students for Trump, misrepresented the judge’s qualifications.

“The ‘Judge’ who took Trump off the ballot in Illinois is a traffic court judge who presides over ‘minor traffic violations and Class A Misdemeanors.’ A traffic court judge… You can’t make this up,” Fournier said in the post, which received more than 20,000 likes.

Fournier has spread baseless and false claims on social media before.

This post has a grain of truth but doesn’t tell the full story. It is correct, as Fournier said in his post, that among Porter’s responsibilities has been presiding over traffic court. The Cook County Democratic Party website said that Porter was sworn in as an at-large Cook County Circuit Court judge on Nov. 12, 2021. As of April 2022, the website said Porter “sits in the Traffic Division in the Richard J. Daley Center in downtown Chicago, where she presides over minor traffic violations and Class A Misdemeanor matters.”

The role of a circuit court judge is much broader, however, according to the Illinois Court Records. “Illinois Circuit Courts are trial courts that hear all kinds of cases,” the ICR website explains. “Illinois Circuit Courts are courts of original jurisdiction as the courts first hear cases originating from their respective judicial circuits. While lower than the Appellate Court and the Supreme Court, Circuit Courts have jurisdiction over all types of cases, including civil and criminal matters. These may include all juvenile, probate, traffic, domestic relations matters, and small claims up to $10,000. In addition to the aforementioned, Illinois Circuit Courts also can review administrative orders from some state agencies.”

The “standing order” for Porter’s court calendar, effective Sept. 22, 2023, included presiding over cases involving tax deeds, tax objections, name changes, bench and jury trials, evidentiary hearings, contested hearings, and settlement conferences.

It’s also worth noting that Porter has worked in private practice and legal academia for 27 years, according to the announcement of her appointment to the Illinois circuit court in 2021. She was an adjunct professor of law at Drake University Law School and professor of law at the Abraham Lincoln University School of Law. She also taught at Western State College of Law, Southern Illinois University School of Law, Saint Louis University School of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago-Kent College of Law and the University of Illinois-Chicago John Marshall Law School.


Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.

Sources

Coltrain, Nick. “What to know about Colorado’s Trump ballot case before the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments.” Denver Post. 7 Feb 2024.

Constitution Annotated. Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection and Other Rights. Section 3 Disqualification from Holding Office. Constitution.congress.gov. Accessed 1 Mar 2024.

Cook County Democratic Party. COOK COUNTY CIRCUIT Tracie Porter. 25 Apr 2022.

Illinois Circuit Court. Standing order. County Division — Calendar 9. Judge Tracie R. Porter. Accessed 4 Mar 2024.

Illinois Court Records. “How Does The Illinois Circuit Court Work?” Accessed 4 Mar 2024.

Jaffe, Alan. “Posts Distort History in Comparing Lincoln With Efforts to Disqualify Trump.” FactCheck.org. 23 Jan 2024.

Keefe, Eliza. “Military Equipment Traveling Back to U.S., Contrary to Social Media Posts.” FactCheck.org. 17 Mar 2023.

Liptak, Adam. “Supreme Court Rules Trump Stays on Colorado Ballot.” New York Times. 4 Mar 2024.

Schonfeld, Zach. “Maine judge defers decision on Trump 14th Amendment question until Supreme Court rules.” The Hill. 17 Jan 2024.

Smith, Mitch. “Judge Orders Trump Removed From Illinois Primary Ballots.” New York Times. 28 Feb 2024.

Spengler, Matt. “GM, Ford Vehicles Were Donated to Ukraine by Carmakers.” FactCheck.org. 26 Sep 2022.

Supreme Court of Illinois. “Illinois Supreme Court Appoints Tracie Porter as At-Large Circuit Judge of Cook County.” 14 Oct 2021.

United States Supreme Court. No. 23-79. DONALD J. TRUMP, PETITIONER v. NORMA ANDERSON, el al. 4 Mar 2024.

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