Cowboys for Trump fanatic lawsuit wins — and units a giant precedent

Most Individuals have by no means heard of Couy Griffin. Most Individuals are additionally in all probability not accustomed to Part 3 of the 14th Modification, often known as the disqualification clause, because it hasn’t obtained plenty of consideration for the reason that finish of the Civil Warfare, when it was invoked to maintain public officeholders who had joined the Confederacy from holding workplace once more.

Griffin will not be a nationally outstanding determine (or at the least, he wasn’t till just lately), however this case nonetheless has profound significance to all Individuals.

However a call final week by a state court docket decide in Santa Fe, New Mexico, dominated that Griffin, a county commissioner in Otero County, New Mexico, and founding father of the group Cowboys for Trump, was constitutionally disqualified from workplace after he participated within the Jan. 6 rebel on the Capitol. Griffin will not be a nationally outstanding determine (or at the least, he wasn’t till just lately), however this case nonetheless has profound significance for all Individuals. 

Our group, Residents for Accountability and Ethics in Washington (CREW), together with co-counsel, represented three New Mexico residents who sued to take away Griffin from workplace underneath a New Mexico legislation that enables any resident to go to court docket to problem the {qualifications} of a state official. We argued, and the decide agreed, that Griffin was disqualified from workplace as a result of his participation within the Jan. 6 riot ran afoul of the 14th Modification. There are various officers who might be challenged primarily based on the disqualification clause — however we concluded that the details of Griffin’s case and the legislation in New Mexico made this place to begin. In response to the details introduced at trial and affirmed within the decide’s resolution, former commissioner Griffin promoted violent rhetoric earlier than, throughout and after the 2020 presidential election, and traveled to the Capitol for the Jan. 6 election certification, video taping his threats and allegiance to the rebel alongside the best way.

This week’s court docket resolution is the primary case through which any decide, at any stage, has dominated that the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol was an rebel as outlined by the Structure. It reaffirms our fundamental American dedication to a democratic system with its discovering that those that search to undermine the rule of legislation and the peaceable transition of energy don’t have any place in authorities.

The disqualification clause states that anybody who swears an oath to the Structure after which participates in an rebel is disqualified from holding state or federal workplace. Because the North Carolina Supreme Courtroom present in 1869, the final 12 months certainly one of these circumstances beforehand went to trial: “The oath to assist the Structure is the take a look at. The concept being that one who had taken an oath to assist the Structure and violated it, should be excluded from taking it once more, till relieved by Congress.”

Couy Griffin failed that take a look at. Regardless of taking an oath to assist our Structure, he joined and incited a violent rebel towards the peaceable switch of energy. This was not a detailed case. The proof towards Griffin introduced at trial included testimony from a D.C. police officer injured defending the Capitol that day, a photographer who witnessed the rebel and Griffin’s function in it, and specialists in American constitutional historical past, political violence and nationwide safety. The decide was additionally proven intensive video footage of Griffin instantly earlier than, on and after Jan. 6. Taken collectively, it was an awesome show. (Griffin had been beforehand convicted of getting into restricted grounds on Jan. 6, 2021, in a separate trial.)

Griffin was a featured speaker on the Girls for America First’s “Cease the Steal” bus tour throughout the nation that mobilized and incited crowds to come back to Washington. As famous within the decide’s resolution, Griffin breached limitations on Jan. 6 with the mob and, very visibly, used a bullhorn to encourage these violently attacking the Capitol. He sought within the wake of Jan. 6 to justify and normalize the actions of that day.

However this case is simply the beginning. This week’s ruling has significance past Griffin himself. A court docket discovered for the primary time that the occasions of Jan. 6, 2021, constituted an rebel. A decide, listening to intensive details and knowledgeable evaluation, concluded that this was not a protest or a number of outliers inflicting chaos; slightly, this was a concerted effort to oppose the execution of federal legislation. Insurrectionists tried to cease the constitutionally mandated counting of electoral votes. And the assault did, for the primary time in American historical past, disrupt the peaceable transition of presidential energy, a bedrock precept upon which our democratic system of presidency stands.

The implications of right now’s ruling will reverberate outdoors New Mexico. As a result of this court docket dominated this was an rebel underneath Part 3 of the 14th Modification, these officers who, having sworn an oath to assist the Structure, participated within the rebel, whether or not bodily or by encouraging and inciting it, could also be constitutionally disqualified from serving in state or federal workplace going ahead. If different courts agree, that may be a precept that ought to now be utilized to different state authorities officers who supported or have been in league with Jan. 6 insurrectionists and to nationwide leaders who incited the assault on the Capitol. It’s a precept that must be utilized to former authorities officers, like former President Donald Trump, ought to they search to enter authorities once more.

Different efforts to make use of the disqualification clause to take away a number of members of Congress from ballots this 12 months yielded necessary authorized choices however have been in the end unsuccessful. The totally different authorized posture and distinctive proof in our case contributed to a unique outcome, however the decide’s considerate and expansive resolution within the case makes it clear that this necessary 14th Modification provision can and will apply properly past Couy Griffin. Will probably be essential to take care in evaluating potential future circumstances to make sure that the details and the legislation assist a powerful argument for disqualification underneath the Structure. CREW is now taking a tough have a look at Trump and different public officers to determine what extra actions underneath the disqualification clause is perhaps most worthwhile to pursue.

The 246-year-old American experiment in self-governance can’t proceed if our leaders are free to ignore the very ideas on which it’s primarily based, and even incite mobs to take up arms towards the Structure and legal guidelines, with out consequence. The Structure received’t implement itself: Following the decide’s ruling, we’re investigating different potential violations of the 14th Modification throughout the nation. Nevertheless it’s as much as all of us to play a job.

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