Editorial: Process to oust Griffin feeds conspiracy theories - Albuquerque Journal

Editorial: Process to oust Griffin feeds conspiracy theories

Unless he wins an appeal, disgraced ex-Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin won’t ever serve in another elected position.

That’s the right outcome for someone who shamelessly promoted the “Big Lie” that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election and urged a mob to sack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. “Blood will run from the Capitol,” Griffin shared on social media a day later as he encouraged followers to return for the presidential inauguration.

But the process to have him removed from the county commission was less than ideal and stands to turn Griffin into a martyr.

Let’s start with the fact Griffin survived a recall attempt in the wake of the insurrection. Earlier this year, he was convicted of a misdemeanor in federal court for entering a restricted area during the Jan. 6 attack, and sentenced to 14 days in jail.

It took a state district judge in Santa Fe, using a federal law in civil court, to deem Griffin’s actions disqualifying to hold public office. Even though Griffin isn’t seeking reelection, three New Mexico residents — none of whom reside in his county — brought a case centered on his participation in the events of Jan. 6.

Concerned Griffin could continue to use elected positions to sow misinformation about the integrity of U.S. elections, the plaintiffs — Marco Alarid White and Leslie Lakind of Santa Fe, and Mark Mitchell of Los Alamos — sought to put an end to his eligibility to hold office. Choosing a liberal venue in Northern New Mexico to press a case against a Trump supporter from a more conservative southern part of the state adds to the bad optics.

And those continue: Friend-of-the-court briefs supporting the plaintiffs were filed by a who’s who of liberal causes. Laurence Tribe, a professor emeritus of constitutional law at Harvard University, and Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California Berkeley School of Law, were among authors of amicus briefs. The NAACP and Common Cause, an organization that advocates for government accountability, also filed briefs.

After a two-day bench trial in August, the judge ruled last week Griffin be immediately removed from his seat on the Otero County Commission. The judge ruled Griffin violated a clause in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that prohibits any office-holder who had previously taken an oath to uphold the Constitution and then participated in an insurrection or rebellion from ever holding any public office again without a supermajority vote from Congress removing the disqualification.

Griffin represented himself and tried to present himself as a victim of politically motivated persecution.

“I’m shocked that this can happen in our country, an elected representative can be removed from office in a civil trial by one liberal, Democrat judge,” he said.

Though we agree with the outcome, it is unfortunate the process used to banish Griffin from public office feeds right into his partisan conspiracy theories.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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