“A New Mexico judge ordered Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin be removed from office, effective immediately, ruling that the attack on the Capitol was an insurrection and that Griffin’s participation in it disqualified him under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment,” CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) stated in a press release.
This is an unprecedented decision for multiple reasons.
- It’s the first time since 1869 that a court has disqualified a public official under Section 3.
- It’s the first time that any court has ruled the events of January 6, 2021 an insurrection.
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, also known as the Disqualification Clause, bars any person from holding federal or state office who took an “oath…to support the Constitution of the United States” as an “officer of any State” and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” or gave “aid or comfort” to insurrectionists. Griffin, as an Otero County Commissioner since January 2019, took an oath to “support and uphold the Constitution and laws of the State of New Mexico, and the Constitution of the United States.”
“This is a historic win for accountability for the January 6th insurrection and the efforts to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power in the United States. Protecting American democracy means ensuring those who violate their oaths to the Constitution are held responsible,” said CREW President Noah Bookbinder. “This decision makes clear that any current or former public officials who took an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution and then participated in the January 6th insurrection can and will be removed and barred from government service for their actions.”
Under New Mexico law, any private citizen of the state may file a lawsuit to remove a disqualified county official from office. A group of New Mexico residents were represented in this case by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the New Mexico-based law firms of Freedman Boyd Hollander and Goldberg P.A, Dodd Law Office, LLC, and the Law Office of Amber Fayerberg, LLC, as well as by Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC.
Cuoy Griffin was convicted of trespassing earlier this year.
The ruling was the result of a lawsuit seeking Griffin's removal, which alleged that he violated a clause in 14th Amendment of the Constitution by participating in an "insurrection" against the US government.
— Dianne Gallagher (@DianneG) September 6, 2022
Law & Crime wrote about the unprecedented ruling:
In the first decision of its kind since the Reconstruction era, a New Mexico judge removed one of the state’s county commissioners from office under the 14th Amendment’s prohibition against public office holders engaging in “insurrection.”
The founder of “Cowboys for Trump,” Couy Griffin was convicted earlier this year of entering a restricted area for his role in the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol. Griffin has fought since that time to preserve his role as a New Mexico county commissioner, claiming that he had a First Amendment right to protest President Joe Biden’s lawful election.
First Amendment scholars and luminaries disagreed, at least with regard to Griffin’s specific actions on that day.
For Judge Francis J. Mathew, from New Mexico’s First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe, Griffin’s plea for the court to heed the will of his voters carried a tinge of hypocrisy.
“The irony of Mr. Griffin’s argument that this Court should refrain from applying the law and consider the will of the people in District Two of Otero County who retained him as a county commissioner against a recall effort as he attempts to defend his participation in an insurrection by a mob whose goal, by his own admission, was to set aside the results of a free, fair and lawful election by a majority of the people of the entire country (the will of the people) has not escaped this Court,” Mathew wrote in a 49-page opinion.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), an anti-corruption watchdog that challenged Griffin’s candidacy, described the ruling as the first time a court has disqualified a public official under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment since 1869.