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Judge Disqualifies New Mexico County Commissioner and ‘Cowboys for Trump’ Founder for Having ‘Engaged in’ the Jan. 6 ‘Insurrection’

Couy Griffin at Capitol on J6

Couy Griffin at the Capitol on Jan. 6 (via DOJ court filing)

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.

Since the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, advocacy groups have sought to disqualify a range of pro-Donald Trump candidates from public office, including Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, Paul Gosar of Arizona, Andy Biggs of Arizona, and local lawmakers. Those previous challenges failed, but unlike the other candidates, Griffin was charged and convicted of a U.S. Capitol-related crime.

Citing the Whiskey Insurrection and Fries’ Insurrection of the 18th century, the judge noted that one need not succeed in overthrowing the government to have engaged in insurrection.

“The Court concludes that the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol and the surrounding planning, mobilization, and incitement constituted an ‘insurrection’ within the meaning of Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment,” the ruling states.

The ruling said that Griffin helped “mobilize and incite thousands across the country to join the mob” in Washington, D.C., where he was a speaker in a multi-city bus tour organized by the group Stop the Steal.

“Applying these principles, the Court concludes that Mr. Griffin ‘engaged in’ the January 6 insurrection,” the judge said.

The judge then turned to Griffin’s actions on Jan. 6.

“The Court concludes that Mr. Griffin’s crossing of barricades to approach the¬†Capitol were overt acts in support of the insurrection, as Griffin’s presence closer to the Capitol building increased the insurrectionists’ intimidation by numbers,” the ruling states. “Mr. Griffin’s marching with the mob all the way to the inaugural stage, knowing the mob’s insurrectionary purpose, likewise¬†constitutes an overt act. The Court’s conclusions are consistent with how knowledgeable nineteenth-century Americans would view Mr. Griffin’s actions.”

“Mr. Griffin aided the insurrection even though he did not personally engage in violence,” the ruling continues. “By joining the mob and trespassing on restricted Capitol grounds, Mr. Griffin contributed to delaying Congress’s election-certification proceedings. The constitutionally mandated proceedings could not resume until all members of the mob, including Mr. Griffin, were removed from the restricted area.”

The judge found that Griffin is “constitutionally ineligible and barred for life from serving as a ‘Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President,’ or from ‘hold[ing] any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State,’ including his current office as an Otero County Commissioner.”

This is a developing story.

Read the ruling, below:

(Image from DOJ filing)

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."