October 17, 2022
District Attorney Raúl Torrez Obtains Injunction Against New Mexico Civil Guard
District Attorney Raúl Torrez Obtains Injunction Against New Mexico Civil Guard: Court orders unauthorized militia and its members to stop publicly operating as military unit or acting as law enforcement
Albuquerque, NM – Second Judicial District Court Judge Elaine Lujan granted Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez’s request for an injunction against the extremist unlawful militia group known as the New Mexico Civil Guard (NMCG).
Judge Lujan’s order prohibits the New Mexico Civil Guard, its directors, officers, agents, employees, members, and successors from organizing and operating in public as part of a military unit independent of New Mexico’s civil authority and without having been lawfully activated by the Governor of New Mexico. Further, the Judge barred the group from assuming law-enforcement functions by using or projecting the ability to use organized force at protests, demonstrations, or public gatherings.
This ruling grants a motion for default judgment filed by District Attorney Torrez following the conduct of the group’s founder during a deposition. Bryce Provance, designated to appear on behalf of NMCG, flagrantly violated a court order requiring the deposition and made a mockery of the judicial process by refusing to identify himself or answer basic questions. Provance also brought hand-drawn images to the deposition that were both threatening and indecent. Of the little information Provance provided during his testimony, he admitted that he destroyed all records for the NMCG, including by pouring bleach on his computer and setting it on fire.
The lawsuit was brought in July 2020 after members of NMCG deployed to a protest seeking the removal of a statue of Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate near Old Town in Albuquerque. Wearing camouflage attire and bearing assault-style rifles and other military gear, NMCG usurped law enforcement authority and threatened public safety. In an already tense environment, the NMCG made it worse with its heavily armed presence, a protester unaffiliated with the group shot and injured another protester.
Before the lawsuit, NMCG had held several “musters” and other paramilitary training in the state, and had self-deployed at other demonstrations and public gatherings. The lawsuit sought the injunctive relief that the Court has now granted, in order to protect New Mexicans exercising their constitutional rights from being intimidated and threatened by untrained and armed extremists attempting to unlawfully function as the police or the military.
“This ruling is a victory for the rule of law and a signal to anyone in this state who believes that they can establish their own private paramilitary or police unit to advance their own political agenda,” said Torrez. “In this tense political environment we must always remember that this is a nation of laws and – regardless of our political views – there is no room for political violence or extremism. If we are going to remain a free and democratic society we must resist the impulse towards armed extremism that has been the ruin of so many countries around the world.”
District Attorney Torrez was co-represented in this case by the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP) at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., and Peifer, Hanson, Mullins & Baker in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This is ICAP’s second successful case against private paramilitary groups for publicly engaging in unauthorized military and law enforcement activity. Representing the City of Charlottesville and local businesses and residential associations, ICAP successfully obtained injunctions against white supremacist and unlawful paramilitary organizations that violated state laws during the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.
“Clear rulings from courts, like this injunction against the New Mexico Civil Guard, send a powerful message to unlawful private paramilitary groups that their efforts to take the law into their own hands will not be tolerated. It’s critical to lay down these markers to establish that unauthorized paramilitary activity is incompatible with the rule of law,” said ICAP’s Executive Director Mary B. McCord.
District Attorney Torrez will remain vigilant in his commitment to prevent unlawful paramilitary activity in New Mexico, and he will immediately seek to enforce the Order if NMCG or its directors, officers, agents, employees, members, or successors —including the other named defendants in the suit—show up at public events as unsanctioned military units or attempt to engage in functions reserved to law enforcement.
Click here to view the order.