A group of Arizona voters in coordination with Free Speech for People, has filed lawsuits challenging the qualifications of three candidates for future election or re-election.
The suits challenge the qualifications of Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs and State Representative Mark Finchem on the grounds that they are not qualified to hold office because of their participation in the January 6th insurrection.
Here is the full release from Free Speech for People:
PHOENIX, AZ (April 7, 2022) – A group of Arizona voters filed three separate lawsuits today in the Superior Court of Arizona in Maricopa County, challenging the eligibility of Congressmen Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs and State Representative Mark Finchem, who is running for Secretary of State, to appear on the 2022 ballot. The challenges allege that Gosar, Biggs, and Finchem are constitutionally disqualified from public office under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, on the grounds that they helped facilitate the January 6, 2021 insurrection.
The voters are represented by Free Speech For People, a nonpartisan, non-profit legal advocacy organization with constitutional law expertise, which is serving as co-lead counsel in the matter, alongside the Tempe-based election law firm Barton Mendez Soto and the New York-based firm Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel.
Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment, known as the Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause, provides: “No Person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress. . . who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress . . . to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” The purpose of the Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause, passed in the wake of the Civil War, is not to punish the oathbreaker but rather to protect the country. No criminal conviction or prior adjudication is required under the Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause, although the defendants would be able to seek judicial review of an adverse decision.
In the state of Arizona, all candidates must file nomination papers with the Secretary of State that, among other things, declare they “will be qualified at the time of election to hold the office the person seeks.” To enforce that requirement, “any elector” may challenge a candidate’s nomination “for any reason relating to qualifications for the office sought as prescribed by law.” That includes constitutional qualifications.
As set forth in the complaints, the publicly available evidence establishes that Gosar and Biggs helped facilitate the insurrection, before, during, and after January 6, 2021. Specifically, the evidence shows that they either helped to plan the attack on January 6, or alternatively helped to plan the pre-attack demonstration and/or march on the Capitol with knowledge that it was substantially likely to lead to the attack, and otherwise voluntarily aided the insurrection. Much of this evidence is in the public record and has been widely reported by numerous media outlets. According to news reports citing organizers of the pre-attack demonstration, Gosar went so far as to offer them a “blanket pardon” in connection with unrelated criminal investigations, encouraging what would no doubt be an illegal act of violence.
Gosar and Biggs were vocal supporters of the insurrection as it was happening and have since, along with Finchem, defended the behavior of its participants while falsely claiming it was carried out by “antifa” infiltrators. All three defendants have continued to perpetuate disinformation surrounding the attack on Capitol Hill and the false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Trump by “voter fraud.”
The complaint against State Representative Mark Finchem alleges that he worked alongside Gosar, Biggs, and right-wing activist Ali Alexander ahead of the events of January 6th. Gosar and Finchem sought to introduce pro-Trump “alternate” electors, and Finchem later played an active role in the insurrection itself. He advanced with the crowd near the steps of the Capitol as it was being overrun, took a picture, and tweeted his support while the insurrection was ongoing: “What happens when the People feel they have been ignored, and congress refuses to acknowledge rampant fraud. #stopthesteal.” Finchem later attempted to downplay his involvement in the attack.
“This was an attack on the United States. The importance of counting the electoral votes in our constitutional system cannot be overstated,” the plaintiffs argue. “It formalizes a deeper, bedrock norm in our democracy: the peaceful transition of power…[Counting electoral votes and ensuring a peaceful transition of power] are essential constitutional functions of the United States government. An attempt to disrupt those procedures, particularly through violence, is an attack on our country itself.”
In January, voters in North Carolina, represented by Free Speech For People and North Carolina lawyers, filed a similar challenge against Representative Madison Cawthorn based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. On March 4, 2022, a federal district court judge in North Carolina, appointed by Donald Trump, issued an injunction blocking the North Carolina State Board of Elections from hearing the challenge on the grounds that an 1872 law which provided amnesty to ex-Confederates also applied to Cawthorn. The voters have filed an expedited appeal of that ruling with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
Georgia voters, also represented by Free Speech For People, have followed suit, filing a complaint with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on March 24, challenging Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene’s candidacy for re-election. On April 1, Greene filed a federal lawsuit to try to stop the challenge from being heard before an administrative law judge in Georgia. A federal court hearing on Greene’s motion for a preliminary injunction is scheduled for tomorrow, April 8, at 2 pm ET before U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg. Pending the outcome of the federal hearing, a hearing before an administrative law judge has been set for April 13 at 9:30 am.
While state election authorities cannot impose additional qualifications upon federal candidates, they can (as confirmed by then-Judge, now-Justice Neil Gorsuch) exclude candidates from the ballot who do not meet the qualifications established by the Constitution itself.
Free Speech For People and Our Revolution are co-leading a national campaign to ensure that election officials across the country follow the mandate of Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment and bar elected officials who engaged in the insurrection, including former President Donald Trump, from appearing on any future ballot. More information about that campaign is available at www.14point3.org.
Who is next?