Judge Unseats Official Who Trespassed at Capitol on Jan. 6

The ruling made Couy Griffin, a county commissioner in New Mexico, the first official in more than 100 years to be removed under the Constitution’s bar on insurrectionists holding office.

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By Luke Broadwater and Alan Feuer

WASHINGTON — A judge in New Mexico on Tuesday ordered a county commissioner convicted of participating in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol removed from office under the 14th Amendment, making him the first public official in more than a century to be barred from serving under a constitutional ban on insurrectionists holding office.

The ruling declared the Capitol assault an insurrection and unseated Couy Griffin, a commissioner in New Mexico’s Otero County and the founder of Cowboys for Trump, who was convicted earlier this year of trespassing when he breached barricades outside the Capitol during the attack. The judge’s order grabbed the attention of advocates across the country who have been pushing to use the 14th Amendment to disqualify former President Donald J. Trump and elected officials who worked with him in seeking to overturn the 2020 election from holding office in the future.

In his decision, Judge Francis J. Mathew of the New Mexico District Court said the insurrection on Jan. 6 included not only the mob violence that unfolded that day, but also the “surrounding planning, mobilization and incitement” that led to it.

“Mr. Griffin is constitutionally disqualified from serving,” the judge wrote.

Liberal groups have filed legal challenges in Arizona, New Mexico, North Carolina and Wisconsin seeking to block lawmakers accused of supporting the Jan. 6 rioters — including some prominent Republican members of Congress — from holding office under the Constitution. Until Tuesday, none had succeeded.

“This just went from being theoretical to being something that is legally recognized and legally possible,” said Noah Bookbinder, director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonpartisan watchdog organization that filed suit against Mr. Griffin on behalf of a group of New Mexico residents. “That’s hugely significant. It could have real implications for protecting the country from people associated with the effort to overturn the last election.”

Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, adopted during Reconstruction to punish members of the Confederacy for taking up arms against their country in the Civil War, declares that “no person shall” hold “any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath” to “support the Constitution,” had then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

Reconstruction-era federal prosecutors brought civil actions in court to oust officials linked to the Confederacy, and Congress in some cases refused to seat members, according to the Congressional Research Service.

But the last time the section of the amendment was enforced was in 1919, when Congress refused to seat a socialist member who was accused of giving aid and comfort to Germany during World War I.

An appeals court ruled in May that participants in an insurrection against the U.S. government could be barred from holding office, but the target of that case, Representative Madison Cawthorn, Republican of North Carolina, had already lost his primary, rendering the matter essentially moot.

In a challenge to the candidacy of Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, a judge also said the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol qualified as an insurrection but said that there was insufficient evidence to prove that Ms. Greene engaged in it.

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