Julia Conley, Common Dreams
A state court for the first time on Tuesday ruled that the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol was an insurrection, ordering a county-level official in New Mexico to step down due to his participation in the attack and thus handing a victory to government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
The group, commonly known as CREW, represented several New Mexico residents, who under state law sued to have Couy Griffin removed from office. They filed a lawsuit against Couy, who served as the Otero County Commissioner, earlier this year after he was charged with breaching and occupying Capitol grounds, a crime for which he was later convicted.
The state’s First Judicial District Court ruled that the January 6 attack and the “surrounding planning, mobilization, and incitement constituted an ‘insurrection'” in accordance with the 14th Amendment and that under Section 3 of that amendment, Griffin is “constitutionally disqualified” from serving in public office.
Cowboys for Trump founder Couy Griffin hasn't just been ordered removed from office immediately for participating in the insurrection—the judge ruled he forfeited his office and has been illegally holding office since 1/6/21. https://t.co/glAMvd2dOM
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) September 6, 2022
“This is a historic win for accountability for the January 6 insurrection and the efforts to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power in the United States,” said Noah Bookbinder, president of CREW. “Protecting American democracy means ensuring those who violate their oaths to the Constitution are held responsible.”
The court is the first since 1869 to invoke Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to remove a public official from their post. Section 3 states that no official can continue to hold office if they “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” or gave “aid or comfort” to insurrectionists after taking an “oath… to support the Constitution of the United States.”
Griffin, who founded the group Cowboys for Trump, “forfeited his current office as an Otero County Commissioner effective January 6, 2021,” Judge Francis Matthew concluded.
As a leader of the mob that marched to the Capitol on January 6 and breached the building as the U.S. House was certifying President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, Griffin addressed the crowd through a bullhorn and repeated former President Donald Trump’s baseless lie that the election had been stolen. He promoted the event on social media ahead of January 6 and later defended the mob’s actions after the insurrection, as well as suggesting Trump’s supporters could launch another attack.
At the trial, an attorney who joined CREW in representing the plaintiffs played videos of Griffin telling his supporters to “prepare for a war” ahead of the insurrection and later saying he planned to return to the Capitol for a rally supporting the Second Amendment, threatening that there would be “blood running out of the building,” according to The Albuquerque Journal.
The court ruling “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 action,” said Bookbinder.
Griffin said as his trial got underway last month that he had been considering a run for sheriff after his term as commissioner ends at the end of the year, but the ruling blocks him from doing so.