Congress must consider using 14th Amendment’s Disqualification Clause where warranted
Congress has a particularly important role to play in enforcing Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment—also known as the Disqualification Clause—against those who betrayed their Constitutional oaths by engaging in the January 6 insurrection. A judge’s recent ruling in New Mexico, which disqualified and removed Otero County Commissioner and Cowboy for Trump founder Couy Griffin from office under Section 3, provides important precedent for Congress to consider in the case of other current and former office holders who may be disqualified under the same standard.
In a letter sent to Congress, CREW calls Congress’s attention to the ruling in the Griffin case, which CREW brought on behalf of three New Mexico residents, and outlines Congress’s role and history in enforcing the Disqualification Clause.
Although the court’s ruling sets a high bar for disqualification, the judge made clear that an insurrection need not “rise to the level of trying to overthrow the government”—a group acting through force, violence and intimidation by numbers to prevent the federal government from performing a constitutional function is enough. Furthermore, the judge cited Reconstruction-era case law establishing that a person can be disqualified under the 14th Amendment even if they have not been convicted of a crime and even if they did not engage in violence.
Given these facts, there are likely other current and future officeholders who are disqualified under the 14th Amendment, and Congress has a long history of enforcing the Disqualification Clause against its own members. CREW urges Congress to look to the ruling in New Mexico as a guide, and act on its Constitutional duty where the evidence supports disqualification.