Supreme Court rejects appeal by former New Mexico county commissioner banned for Jan. 6 insurrection

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

Former Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin, a cowboy pastor who rose to national political fame by embracing then-President Donald Trump with a series of horse caravans, is so far the only elected official barred from office in connection with the attack on the Capitol . disrupted Congress as it attempted to certify Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory over Trump.

During a 2022 trial in district court, Griffin received the first disqualification in more than a century under a provision of the 14th Amendment that was 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 option 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 individuals who hold or attempt to hold state office,” the justices wrote in an unsigned opinion.

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

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

Griffin claims he entered the Capitol grounds on January 6 without realizing it had been designated a restricted area and attempted to lead a crowd in prayer using a bullhorn without committing violence.

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

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

CREW has outlined the case for investigating several current state lawmakers who went to Washington on January 6.

In Griffin’s 2022 trial in state court, New Mexico Judge Francis Mathew recognized the Jan. 6 attack as an insurrection and ruled that Griffin aided that insurrection without using violence, contributing to a delay in congressional election procedures.

Griffin’s appeal of the disqualification asserted that only Congress, and not a state court, has the power to enforce the 14th Amendment’s anti-insurrection clause through legislation, and it urged the Supreme Court to decide whether the events on January 6 whether or not an ‘uprising’ as defined in the constitution.

It also invoked Griffin’s rights to freedom of expression protection.

“If the decision is to stand, at least in New Mexico, it is now the crime of insurrection to gather people to pray together for the United States of America on the unmarked restricted grounds of the Capitol,” the Florida-based company. attorney Peter Ticktin argued in lawsuits on behalf of Griffin.

During the trial, Mathew, the judge, 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 while traveling across the country country. beginning in New Mexico, calling on the crowd to join him in Washington on January 6 and join the “war” over the presidential election results.

Mathew said recordings from a videographer who accompanied Griffin outside the U.S. Capitol showed that the county commissioner “incited the mob even after he saw members of the mob attack police officers at close range and attempt to violently break into the Capitol building.”

The New Mexico Supreme Court later declined to hear the case after Griffin missed procedural deadlines.

On the third anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack this year, Griffin cast himself as a victim of political persecution when he spoke to a rally in the rural community of Gillette, Wyoming, at the invitation of a Republican Party.

“God is really allowing me to have some amazing days,” Griffin said. 6 was a day like no other. It was a day that showed a kind of patriotism I had never seen before, and I was honored to be there.”

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

While still a county commissioner, Griffin joined Republican colleagues in refusing to certify the results of the June 2022 primary election based on distrust of the voting systems used to count the votes, even though the state’s election official said province that there were no problems. The board ultimately approved the election on a 2-1 vote, with Griffin still voting no based on a “gut feeling.”

Griffin weathered a recall petition in 2021. Following his disqualification from office, Griffin was tried by a jury in his home country in March 2023 and acquitted of charges that he refused to register and disclose donors to Cowboys for Trump.


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