Eric Olson, attorney in Trump disqualification case, is Kentucky native

ATTORNEY

Donald Trump could be kept off Colorado’s primary ballot thanks in part to a Kentucky native.

Attorney Eric Olson, who was successful in convincing Colorado’s justices that Trump cannot run for the presidency because of his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection, was born and raised in Eastern Kentucky’s Elliott County.

“I am very, very proud of my Kentucky connection,” Olson told The Courier Journal on Wednesday, a day after the ruling was issued.

Elliott County is near the Ohio border and has a population of less than 7,000 people. Olson left the state in the 1990s to attend Oberlin College, then Michigan Law School but said he still visits regularly, with his mom and sister still living in Eastern Kentucky.

Olson is the first to successfully argue that the insurrection clause in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution can allow the disqualification of a presidential candidate. The ruling, which would keep Trump off Colorado’s ballot, could ultimately impact the 2024 presidential race.

Olson argued that in Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election results, he incited the Jan. 6, 2021, attack at the U.S. Capitol, which violated his oath to uphold the Constitution and thus makes him ineligible for political office. He cited Trump’s urging of the crowd to “fight like hell,” and his knowledge of their intentions.

“A majority of the court holds that Trump is disqualified from holding the office of president under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment,” the Colorado court wrote in its 4-3 decision.

“We’re thrilled and pleased that the rule of law remains strong in Colorado and in America,” Olson said.

The ruling will likely be challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court, and Olson said his firm will be heavily involved in that case and that he is prepared to serve as lead counsel on it.

Attorneys Eric Olson, right, and Sean Grimsley listen as Jason Murray argues before the Colorado Supreme Court on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023, in Denver. The oral arguments before the court were held after both sides appealed a ruling by a Denver district judge on whether to allow former President Donald Trump to be included on the state's general election ballot. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, Pool)

Olson’s legal roots started in Kentucky.

His first year out of law school, he clerked for Judge John Heyburn, who was then chief judge of U.S. District Court for Western Kentucky. Heyburn, who died in 2015, was a Republican who carved an independent and progressive path on the federal bench.

“That was one of the highlights of my career,” Olson said of working for Heyburn. “I wish he was still here to give me some advice and tell me what I could do better.”

Olson is also the former solicitor general of Colorado. In that role, he argued five cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, one of which led to a $573 settlement with McKinsey and Co., a consulting firm that provided marketing guidance to multiple opioid manufacturers. That settlement brought nearly $11 million to Kentucky to combat the opioid crisis.

“He’s just someone Kentucky can be very proud of,” said John Rosenberg, a former attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, who is a friend of Olson’s family and who employed Olson one summer at the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund in Prestonsburg.

“He’s a great lawyer and if you look at his career, he’s seen a wonderful record all the way through – from high school forward,” Rosenberg told The Courier Journal.

In September, Olson and four other trial lawyers formed a new Denver-based law firm with a goal of “holding the powerful to account,” according to a Reuters article. The following month, the case against Trump was brought before the Colorado Supreme Court.

Speaking to that short time frame, Rosenberg chuckled that this was, “quite a case to start off with.”

“He’s a really fine lawyer, and he is a really lovely human being,” Rosenberg said of Olson. “I think he has a lot of great legal work ahead of him.”

Before Tuesday’s ruling, Trump’s attorneys promised they would appeal a decision that disqualified the former president from running for the office again to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Trump’s legal spokeswoman Alina Habba said Tuesday night that the Colorado ruling “attacks the very heart of this nation’s democracy. It will not stand, and we trust that the Supreme Court will reverse this unconstitutional order.”

Nicholas Riccardi with The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact reporter Krista Johnson at [email protected].

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Trump disqualified from ballot: Lawyer Eric Olson has Kentucky ties

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