Supreme Court rejects appeal of former New Mexico county commissioner banned over Jan. 6 insurrection

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WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal from a former New Mexico county commissioner who was ousted from office for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

In a 2022 trial in state district court, Griffin received the first disqualification from office in more than a century under a 14th Amendment provision written to prevent former Confederates from serving in government after the Civil war.

Although the Supreme Court ruled this month that states do not have the ability to exclude Trump or other candidates for federal office from the ballot, the justices said different rules apply to state and local candidates.

“We conclude that states may disqualify persons who hold or attempt to hold state office,” the justices wrote in an unsigned opinion.

The outcome of Griffin’s case could bolster efforts to hold other state and local elected officials accountable for their roles in the Jan. 6 attack.

Griffin, a Republican, was convicted in federal court of entering a restricted area on the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6 and received a 14-day prison sentence. The sentence was offset by time served after his arrest in Washington, where he had returned to protest Biden’s inauguration in 2021. That sentence is under appeal.

Griffin maintains that he entered the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6 without acknowledging that it had been designated as a restricted area and that he attempted to lead a crowd in prayer using a megaphone, without engaging in violence.

The recent ruling in the Trump case ended an effort in dozens of states to end Trump’s Republican candidacy for president over accusations that he helped incite the insurrection to try to prevent Biden, a Democrat, from replacing him in the White House in 2020.

The insurrection charges against Griffin were brought on behalf of three New Mexico residents by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a left-leaning group that also filed the lawsuit in Colorado to disqualify Trump.

CREW has outlined the case to investigate several current state legislators who went to Washington on January 6.

Griffin’s appeal of disqualification asserted that only Congress, and not a state court, has the power to enforce the anti-insurrection clause of the 14th Amendment through legislation, and urged the Supreme Court to decide whether the events of January 6 They constituted an “insurrection” as defined by the Constitution.

He also invoked Griffin’s rights to the protection of free speech.

“If the decision… stands, at least in New Mexico, it is now the crime of insurrection to gather people to pray for the United States of America on the restricted and unmarked grounds of the Capitol building,” the defense attorney said. Peter Ticktin argued on Griffin’s behalf in court papers.

At trial, Judge Mathew called Griffin’s free speech arguments self-serving and not credible, noting that the then-commissioner spread lies about the 2020 election being stolen from Trump in a series of speeches at rallies during a trip across the country. beginning in New Mexico, asking crowds to accompany him to Washington on January 6 and join the “war” over the results of the presidential election.

Mathew said recordings from a cameraman who accompanied Griffin outside the U.S. Capitol showed that the county commissioner “incited the mob, even after seeing members of the mob a short distance away attack police officers and attempt to violently storming the Capitol building.”

The New Mexico Supreme Court subsequently refused to hear the case after Griffin missed procedural deadlines.

On the third anniversary of this year’s Jan. 6 attack, Griffin presented himself as a victim of political persecution while speaking at a meeting in the rural community of Gillette, Wyoming, at the invitation of a county Republican Party.

“God is really allowing me to experience some amazing days,” Griffin said. “Jan. The 6th was a day like no other. It was a day that expressed a type of patriotism that I had never seen before and it was an honor to be there.”

In 2019, Griffin gathered a group of rodeo acquaintances into the promotional group called Cowboys for Trump, which organized horseback parades to support Trump’s conservative message on gun rights, immigration controls and abortion restrictions.

While still a county commissioner, Griffin joined his Republican colleagues in refusing to certify the results of the June 2022 primary election due to distrust in the voting systems used to count votes, even though the elections official The county official said there were no problems. The board ultimately certified the election with a 2-1 vote, and Griffin still voted against it based on a “gut feeling.”

Griffin resisted a recall campaign in 2021. After his disqualification from office, Griffin was tried and acquitted by a jury in his home county in March 2023 of allegations that he refused to register and disclose donors to Cowboys for Trump.


Lee reported from Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Riccardi reported from Denver.

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