“The challenge for Chief Justice Roberts and whomever he assigns the opinion will be finding a rationale that can garner five or more votes,” he said. “In recent cases, Roberts has sometimes had difficulty reining in the five justices to his right. Here, there will likely be something closer to consensus.”
Tara Leigh Grove, a law professor at the University of Texas, said the case concerning Mr. Trump’s eligibility and the one on his claim of absolute immunity may as a practical matter be linked.
“History tells us that the Supreme Court does better with the public — in other words, is seen as more legitimate — when it does not rule repeatedly just for ‘one side’ of the political aisle,” she said. “So I anticipate that the justices will welcome a kind of ‘split decision’ in these cases. That is, the court can rule that President Trump remains on the ballot, and yet has no immunity from federal criminal prosecution.”
Vikram Amar, a law professor at the University of California, Davis, who filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Colorado case supporting neither party but expressing skepticism of some of Mr. Trump’s arguments, said he was disappointed with where the case seemed to be heading.
“Unfortunately, it seems the justices may be coalescing around some analytically weak arguments as a way of disposing of this case in a way they think will avoid expending the court’s scarce political capital,” he said.
Professor Amar added that the Colorado case should stand on its own but may not. “There’s no logical connection between the issues in this case and those in the immunity case,” he said, “but a cynic might say ruling for Trump here frees up the court to rule against him there.