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

Couy Griffin, a former Otero County commissioner and cofounder of Cowboys for Trump, speaks during a gun rights rally on Sept. 12 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File)

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

Former Otero County commissioner Couy Griffin, a cowboy pastor who rode to national political fame by embracing then-President Donald Trump with a series of horseback caravans, is the only elected official thus far to be banned from office in connection with the Capitol attack, which disrupted Congress as it was trying to certify Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral victory over Trump.


At a 2022 trial in state district court, Griffin received the first disqualification from office in over a century under a provision of the 14th Amendment written to prevent former Confederates from serving in government after the Civil War.

Though the Supreme Court ruled this month that states don’t have the ability to bar Trump or other candidates for federal offices from the ballot, the justices said different rules apply to state and local candidates.

“We conclude that States may disqualify persons holding or attempting 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 involvement in the Jan. 6 attack.

Griffin, a Republican, was convicted separately 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 2021 inauguration. That conviction is under appeal.

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

The recent ruling in the Trump case shut down a push in dozens of states to end Trump’s Republican candidacy for president over claims he helped instigate the insurrection to try to prevent Biden, a Democrat, from replacing him in the White House in 2020.

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

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

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

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

Griffin on Monday said the Supreme Court took “the coward’s way out” in dismissing his appeal without comment, calling it “the greatest attack on our democracy to date.”

“When civil courtrooms can remove elected officials, it sets a very dangerous precedent,” Griffin said.

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