Accountability in the States for the January 6th Insurrection
Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, also known as the Disqualification Clause, makes clear that people who have sworn an oath to the Constitution who then engage in insurrection are disqualified from serving in public office.
This more than a century old provision is newly relevant in the aftermath of the Capitol attack on January 6, 2021, when the peaceful transfer of presidential power was disrupted by a violent mob summoned by President Donald Trump.
During the Reconstruction era, government officials were barred from office for engaging in insurrection during the Civil War, and just last year, CREW won a case disqualifying and removing a New Mexico official from office for participating in the January 6th attack. At CREW, we are preparing to enforce Trump’s disqualification under Section 3. But accountability for harms of January 6th must go beyond Trump and extend to everyone who engaged in and incited the insurrection.
In many states, election officials, like secretaries of state, can enforce the Disqualification Clause by removing disqualified insurrectionists like Trump from the ballot, or legal challenges can be brought in court to do the same. Some states are also taking steps to explicitly bar insurrectionists from holding certain government positions by considering new state laws.
CREW’s work to hold January 6th insurrectionists accountable is a nationwide effort, and extends beyond those who previously took an oath to the Constitution. From educating law students, to pursuing legal accountability for local insurrectionists, to supporting state legislation barring insurrectionists from office, see each state where CREW has taken action:
We called for the investigation and potential disqualification under Section 3 of Alaska State Rep. David Eastman and worked with a former staffer to U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski and Alaska Governor Bill Walker to publish an op-ed supporting Eastman’s disqualification.
CREW called for the investigation and potential disqualification of U.S. House Rep. Paul Gosar and Arizona State Sen. Anthony Kern and sought public records related to Kern’s participation in January 6th.
CREW co-convened roundtables including at the University of Denver Law School, with academics, non-governmental organization leaders, and advocates to discuss the impact of political and militia violence in Colorado, CREW’s Griffin case, and how state officials can promote accountability for the insurrection, including the January 6, 2021, storming of the U.S. Capitol.
CREW provided legislative guidance, submitted testimony, published an op-ed, and organized a coalition letter in support of legislation to disqualify certain state officials from holding office if they participate in an insurrection.
CREW sought public records related to Maryland State Rep. Dan Cox’s participation in the insurrection.
CREW called for the investigation and potential disqualification of Michigan State Rep. Matt Maddock.
CREW co-convened roundtables, including at the University of Nevada Las Vegas Law School, with academics, non-governmental organization leaders, and advocates to discuss the impact of political violence in Nevada, CREW’s Griffin case, and how state officials can promote accountability for the insurrection, including the January 6, 2021, storming of the U.S. Capitol. In May, CREW Chief Counsel Donald Sherman and UNLV Visiting Professor of Law (and Griffin amici) Maryam Ahranjani co-authored an op-ed in the Nevada Independent supporting the Nevada legislature’s passage of Senate Bill 133 criminalizing fake elector schemes and the need to pursue 14th Amendment disqualification litigation against January 6th insurrectionists.
CREW successfully litigated the removal of Couy Griffin, a County Commissioner from office due to his participation in the January 6th insurrection. This was the first time since 1869 that a court ordered a public official removed from office under the 14th Amendment, and the first time any court ruled that the events of January 6th were an insurrection.
CREW provided legislative guidance in support of legislation in the State Senate and Assembly to bar insurrectionists from holding certain positions of public trust in the state.
CREW called for the investigation and potential disqualification of North Carolina State Rep. Donnie Loftis.
CREW released a report calling for Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano to be removed from office due to his participation in the insurrection. In January 2023, CREW staff presented on the Griffin case at a symposium on the 14th Amendment held at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
CREW co-convened a roundtable at the University of South Dakota Law School, with academics and advocates to discuss the impact of political violence, CREW’s Griffin case, and how government officials can promote accountability for the insurrection, including the January 6, 2021, storming of the U.S. Capitol.
CREW provided policy guidance and supported legislation in Virginia that would have barred those convicted of insurrection from holding positions of public trust in the state. We also sought public records related to Virginia State Rep. David LaRock’s participation in January 6th.
CREW called for the investigation and potential disqualification of West Virginia State Sen. Mike Azinger and the disqualification of former State Representative and current candidate for the U.S. House Derrick Evans.
CREW called for the investigation and potential disqualification of U.S. House Rep. Derrick Van Orden.