Senate Democrats said Tuesday that New Mexico’s future looks bright — partly because it doesn’t include outgoing Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, who also struck a combative tone at the start of the 30-day legislative session. “There’s a new day on the horizon for the state of New Mexico,” said Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, who delivered the response from his caucus to Martinez’s final State of the State address. “Soon, we will have a new leadership team that will guide the state in providing more jobs, better classrooms, protection for our environment [and] safer places for our communities to raise our families and lead prosperous lives,” he said. “New Mexico has been on too many of the lists, at the bottom, for far too long.” In her speech, Martinez, who leaves office at the end of this year, focused on issues she has been working on since she was first elected governor in 2010.
A federal judge has taken the unusual step of ordering a politically ambitious New Mexico attorney to pay back the state for filing a “frivolous” lawsuit aimed at undoing efforts to reform the state’s commercial bail system. The attorney, Blair Dunn, a Libertarian who earlier this week announced a run for state attorney general, must pay “reasonable costs and attorneys fees” to the office he seeks to occupy by year’s end, under the ruling by Chief U.S. District Judge Robert A. Junell. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth. Junell, a George W. Bush appointee from the Western District of Texas, presided over the suit because the Attorney General’s Office represented the judges Dunn was suing, from the New Mexico Supreme Court, the Second Judicial District Court and the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court. Dunn sued last year on behalf of a group of state lawmakers, the Bail Bond Association of New Mexico and a woman who was released from jail last year.
A federal judge threw out a lawsuit by the bail industry, which was fighting rules established by the New Mexico Supreme Court on bail after voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2016. Judge Robert Junell dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice in an order filed Monday in federal district court. This means the case is effectively closed to another lawsuit. . The suit alleged that the rules adopted by the courts violated the Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Voters will get to decide on a bail reform this November after the proposal passed the Senate Wednesday morning. The Senate quickly voted 36-0 to concur with House changes to send the proposed constitutional amendment to the voters, likely on the ballot this November. The proposal would allow judges to hold those they deem a danger to others in jail without bond until trial. This is the part that just about every legislator agreed with. The more controversial proposal, and one that took a deal between sponsors and the bail bond industry, was to allow judges to release those who are in jail before trial solely because they could not afford bail.
Legislation that would allow for for judges to withhold bail for defendants who pose a danger to the community, but also waive bail for defendants who are in jail only because they cannot afford it, passed the House unanimously on Monday. The passage came quickly because the House put the legislation on a fast track. In one day, the legislation passed a House committee and the House voted to remove it from another. Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, was the House sponsor and presented the legislation on behalf of the Senate sponsor Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, and told the body of the broad support for the proposal. Supporters included New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Charles Daniels and Majority Floor Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque.
Democratic and Republican members from both the Senate and House gathered to announce a compromise to bail reform legislation. Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, and Rep. David Adkins, R-Albuquerque, announced, Friday in a press conference, that they had reached a compromise on Wirth’s proposed constitutional amendment. Wirth’s proposal would allow denial of bail for dangerous defendants and also allow bail to be waived for those with an inability to pay. Wirth said the resolution still allows for a judge to waive bail for those who are incarcerated solely because they cannot pay, but now the legislation requires the defendant to file a motion asking for bail to be waived. Another change specifies bail can only be denied for dangerous defendants and not for those who pose a flight risk.
After Senate passage last week, a proposed constitutional amendment that would change the bail process in New Mexico cleared its first House committee Monday afternoon. The bill would allow general election voters this fall to weigh in on allowing a judge to deny bail to defendants deemed dangerous to society. Under the amendment, defendants who don’t present a danger to society could not be held if the only thing keeping them in jail was a lack of money
The House Judiciary Committee passed the bill 7-2, with Reps. Zach Cook, R-Ruidoso, and David Adkins, R-Albuquerque, casting to only dissenting votes. The bill has support from criminal defense attorney organizations, public defender offices, civil liberty groups and city and county organizations.
Just a few things we had that couldn’t quite make a full story. —People who share “sensitive images”—i.e. pictures of genitals—with children will be subject to a fourth degree felony under a bill passed unanimously by the House Judiciary Committee. Children, Youth and Families Department Secretary Monique Jacobson testified about how a man sharing pictures of a penis with a child got a misdemeanor because prosecutors couldn’t prove that the penis belonged to him. “We want to make clear it’s not OK, whether it’s yours or someone else’s,” she said. —Another proposal to change bail in New Mexico failed in the House Safety and Civil Affairs Committee without any discussion.
The Senate passed what may become one of the landmark pieces of this legislative session, passing a proposed constitutional amendment that would remake the bail process in New Mexico in two major ways. The Senate passed the bill 29-9, with all Democrats voting for the proposal except for two who did not vote. Several Republicans joined with the Democrats to vote for the proposal. Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, sponsored the legislation and said that there are two components that the proposal attempts to fix. “The first is under the current law, judges only in very limited circumstances have the ability to hold a dangerous defendant pre-trial without granting bail,” Wirth says.
Two competing proposals for reforming New Mexico’s bail process moved forward on Monday, setting up an inevitable clash as they move towards the floors of the House and Senate. The Senate version has two components: It would allow judges to deny release of those awaiting trial if they are deemed a danger to the public and it would allow judges to not impose bond if the only thing keeping someone accused of a non-violent crime in jail is a lack of ability to pay bond. The House version only has the first part, on allowing judges to keep those deemed dangerous in jail until trial. In the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, presented his version along with New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Charles Daniels. Wirth said the legislation was “narrowed dramatically” since he started the vetting process through interim committees last year.