Official Removed From Seat Due to Jan. 6 Role
OTERO COUNTY, N.M. — For the first time in 153 years an elected official has been removed from office for participating in an insurrection against the United States.
Couy Griffin, an Otero County, New Mexico, commissioner and founder of “Cowboys for Trump,” was removed from his elected position effective immediately by state District Court Judge Francis Mathew for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Tuesday’s ruling was the result of a lawsuit filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. In its complaint, the group argued that Griffin violated a clause of the 14th Amendment by participating in an insurrection against the United States government.
Griffin had previously been convicted of trespassing for his actions that day.
The historic ruling represents the first time an elected official has been removed from office for their participation or support of the U.S. Capitol riot.
Equally noteworthy, it also marks the first time a judge has formally ruled that the events of Jan. 6, 2021, were an “insurrection.”
As a result of Mathew’s ruling, Griffin is also barred from ever holding any state or federal elected position.
After the ruling was handed down, the former official professed to be “shocked” by the outcome of the case, and admitted, “I don’t know where I go from here.”
But Mathew said in his ruling that Griffin’s attempts to “sanitize his actions … amounted to nothing more than attempting to put lipstick on a pig.”
“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 2 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 … has not escaped this court,” the judge wrote.
Mathew noted that Griffin and Cowboys for Trump spent “months normalizing the violence that may be necessary to keep President Trump in office” and urging supporters to travel to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6.
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, 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 Jan. 6 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 Jan. 6 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.
“Judge Mathew’s decision is fully supported by the facts and … law and justice achieve a needed measure of accountability,” said Freedman Boyd Hollander and Goldberg, P.A., Partner Joe Goldberg.