Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

U.S. Supreme Court upholds decisions barring Couy Griffin from ever holding elected office in NM • Source New Mexico

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday extinguished Couy Griffin’s last hope of ever holding elected office again in New Mexico.

New Mexico’s courts in 2023 disqualified Griffin, a convicted Jan. 6 insurrectionist and former Otero County commissioner, from being an elected official under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment because Griffin had violated his oath to support the U.S. Constitution.

A state district court judge cited Griffin’s participation in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, along with “surrounding planning, mobilization and incitement.” He also called those actions an “insurrection against the Constitution.”

After the New Mexico Supreme Court denied Griffin’s appeal, he asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case in May 2023.

Then on Monday, federal justices denied his petition. 

The judges do not explain why they deny these kinds of petitions, but they did signal their position on Griffin’s case when they unanimously ruled on March 4 in a separate but related case involving former President Donald Trump.

In that opinion, the justices quoted from previous cases saying state governments retain the power to set out their own qualifications for elected officials.

“Although the Fourteenth Amendment restricts state power, nothing in it plainly withdraws from the States this traditional authority,” the justices wrote. “We conclude that States may disqualify persons holding or attempting to hold state office.”

A Florida-based lawyer who helped write Griffin’s petition said he would return our request for comment. We will update this story with that response.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) brought the disqualification cases against Griffin and Trump. They had argued the justices should not hear Griffin’s case because he didn’t follow the rules when he appealed the state judge’s decision, and didn’t fix his appeal when the New Mexico Supreme Court gave him the chance.

CREW President Noah Bookbinder said Monday it’s now up to the states “to fulfill their duty under Section 3 to remove from office anyone who broke their oath by participating in the January 6th insurrection.”

“By refusing to take up this appeal, the Supreme Court keeps in place the finding that January 6th was an insurrection, and ensures that states can still apply the 14th Amendment’s disqualification clause to state officials,” Bookbinder said. “Crucially, this decision reinforces that every decision-making body that has substantively considered the issue has found that January 6th was an insurrection, and Donald Trump engaged in that insurrection.”

After the justices denied Griffin’s petition, he took to social media to express his disappointment. “I don’t even know what to say,” he wrote.

He quickly posted three more times to say he understands he is now only eligible to be elected as president or vice president, to ask Trump to pick him as his running mate and to attack the person who replaced him on the Otero County Commission.

Pinned to the top of his X profile on Monday was a March 15 plea for donations to cover his legal expenses, which had raised nearly $20,000.

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