Former New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Daniels died. He was 76.
Chief Justice Judith K. Nakamura announced Daniels’ passing Sunday morning.
“Members of the New Mexico Supreme Court and the entire Judiciary are saddened to learn of the passing of our colleague, Justice Charles W. Daniels,” Nakamura said. “Our state has lost a titan of the law. From humble roots as the son of sharecroppers, Justice Daniels grew into a towering figure as an attorney and jurist who for a half century tenaciously defended our constitutional rights and advanced equal justice under the law.”
Daniels sat on the state Supreme Court from 2007, when then-Gov. Bill RIchardson appointed him, until retiring at the end of 2018. He was twice chosen by his fellow justices as Chief Justice for two-year terms during his time on the state’s high court.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she was “truly saddened by the loss of an undisputed leader in the New Mexico legal community.”
“I am incredibly grateful for his many years of service to the people of New Mexico,” Lujan Grisham said. “He made an immeasurable difference in the legal community and his loss will be deeply felt across the state.”
And Attorney General Hector Balderas said, “He was a champion of fairness and equality in our judicial system, and the State of New Mexico benefited greatly from his service.”
Perhaps his most lasting legacy was one of his last as chief justice. Daniels was a vocal and prominent force behind reforming the state’s cash bail system. Daniels advocated for the constitutional amendment in front of both the Legislature and then to the voters.
Daniels also taught law at the UNM School of Law.
Daniels is survived by his wife, attorney Randi McGinn, four children and seven grandkids.