By MORGAN LEE Associated Press
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico state district court judge has disqualified county commissioner and Cowboys for Trump cofounder Couy Griffin from holding public office for engaging in insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
State District Court Judge Francis Mathew issued a ruling Tuesday that permanently prohibits Griffin from holding or seeking local or federal office.
Griffin was previously convicted in federal court of a misdemeanor for entering Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, without going inside the building. He was sentenced to 14 days and given credit for time served.
The new ruling immediately removes Griffin from his position as a commissioner in Otero County in southern New Mexico.
“Mr. Griffin aided the insurrection even though he did not personally engage in violence,” Mathew wrote. “By joining the mob and trespassing on restricted Capitol grounds, Mr. Griffin contributed to delaying Congress’s election-certification proceedings.”
Griffin he was notified of his removal from office by Otero County staff, who prevented him from accessing his work computer and office space at a county building in Alamogordo.
Griffin, who served as his own legal counsel at a two-day bench trial in August, called the ruling a “total disgrace” that disenfranchises his constituents in Otero County.
“The actions that are being taken are, I believe, are perfect evidence of the tyranny that we’re right now living under,” Griffin said. “The left continues to speak about democracy being under attack, but is this democracy? Whenever you’re removed from office by the civil courts by the opinion of a liberal judge.”
The ruling arrives amid a flurry of similar lawsuits around the country seeking to punish politicians who took part in Jan. 6 under provisions of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which holds that anyone who has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution can be barred from office for engaging in insurrection or rebellion.
Ratified shortly after the Civil War, the provisions were meant in part to keep representatives who had fought for the Confederacy from returning to Congress.
At trial, Griffin invoked free speech guarantees in his defense and argued that removing him from office would cut against the will of the people and set a “dangerous precedent.” Elected in 2018, Griffin withstood a recall vote last year but isn’t running for reelection or other office in November.
Mathews wrote that Griffin’s arguments “disregard that the Constitution itself reflects the will of the people.”
Griffin “overlooks that his own insurrectionary conduct on January 6 sought to subvert the results of a free and fair election, which would have disenfranchised millions of voters.”
The lawsuit against Griffin was brought by three plaintiffs in New Mexico with support from the Washington-based Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. A federal declined a recent request to take up the case.
Tuesday’s judgement 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,” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics President Noah Bookbinder said in a statement.
The NAACP and progressive watchdog group Common Cause filed briefs in support of Griffin’s removal, citing not only Griffin’s involvement at the Capitol attack but also his recent refusal to help certify local results of New Mexico’s June 7 primary election.
Griffin, a Republican, forged a group of rodeo acquaintances in 2019 into the promotional group called Cowboys for Trump that staged horseback parades to spread President Donald Trump’s conservative message about gun rights, immigration controls and abortion restrictions.