July 14, 2015

Martinez names Chandler, two others to benches

Former District Attorney Matt Chandler will be a district court judge in the Ninth Judicial District Court just months after being rejected for a high profile position as a University of New Mexico regent.

Matt Chandler, Courtesy photo

Gov. Susana Martinez announced the appointments of Chandler and two others to fill judicial vacancies on Wednesday afternoon.

Chandler has had an up and down couple of years. Chandler announced in early 2014 that he would resign to start his own local practice, and “pursue new endeavors in the private sector.”

But it was his work in politics that led to the Senate rejecting his move back to government work in the form of a Board of Regents seat at the state’s largest university.

During this year’s legislative session, Chandler failed to get confirmation from the Senate to serve on the UNM Board of Regents. This led to the resignation of Jamie Koch from the Board of Regents in protest. Koch later was reappointed by Martinez.

Much of the criticism of Chandler came because of mailers sent by a Political Action Committee that he was the treasurer of.

A mailer sent by the PAC targeted Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, a Democrat in a swing district, and accused her of making a vote she never did.

“There’s sometimes, unfortunately, a disconnect between the candidate and the treasurer,” Chandler said at a Senate Rules Committee hearing on his nomination during this year’s legislative session. “I think that rings true with a PAC.”

Chandler ran for Attorney General in 2010, losing to then-incumbent Gary King in the general election.

This isn’t the first appointment of Chandler by Martinez since he was rejected by the Senate. Earlier this month, she appointed Chandler to the Uniform Law Commission. He was one of several familiar names to get appointments by Martinez that day.

In addition to Chandler, Martinez named Emilio Chavez of Ranchos de Taos the Eighth Judicial District Court and Patrick Cordell of Flora Vista to the San Juan County Magistrate Court.

Chavez himself is no stranger to controversy. In 2014, Chavez, then the deputy district attorney in the Eighth Judicial District, was accused of impropriety for alleged misuse of subpoena power by issuing subpoenas without the approval of a grand jury or judge ahead of an indictment.

A hearing committee for the Disciplinary board recommended dropping the charges against Chavez and District Attorney David Gallegos.

From an Albuquerque Journal story on the hearing committee’s recommendation:

But the 20-page recommendation issued Thursday states “there was and is no definitive New Mexico legal authority (court rule, judicial opinion, statute or other authority) authorizing or prohibiting a prosecutor” from issuing pre-indictment subpoenas to obtain documents.

When the subpoenas were being issued, the recommendation states, “Chavez and Gallegos were operating in an unsettled legal ‘gray area’” and each “held a reasonable and good-faith belief that his actions were legal and proper.”

The appointment of Chavez fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Stephen John M. Paternoster, the appointment of Cordell fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge James Mosberger and the appointment of Chandler fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Stephen K. Quinn.

Correction: A previous version of this story inaccurately stated that the Disciplinary Board dropped the charges against Chavez and Gallegos. A hearing committee recommended the action, but the board hadn’t made a decision. We regret the error.