June 13, 2016

AG pushes back on Griego case subpoena

Courtesy photo

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas.

With less than a month until former New Mexico Senator Phil Griego is due in court, the Attorney General’s office and the Legislative Council Service are sparring over who can be subpoenaed in the corruption case.

Phil Griego

Phil Griego

Last week, the Legislative Council Service filed a motion asking the judge to quash subpoenas for legislative staff along with lawmakers.

Monday, the AG’s office fired back with a response saying the motion to quash is unwarranted.

Lawyers for LCS contend that a section of the New Mexico Constitution protects lawmakers from being questioned about their speech or votes during the legislative session.

The AG’s office criticized LCS for obstructing the legal process and a number of those who were subpoenaed did not individually object.

“Most of the witnesses, including both private citizens and state employees, make no objection to these simple requests,” the AG’s motion reads. “The Legislative Council Service (LCS), however takes a categorical stance, allegedly on behalf of unnamed legislators: We will not testify. Quash all subpoenas.”

In the original motion, LCS attorneys claim prosecutors may attempt to uncover confidential communications of the legislative committee that originally investigated Griego.

“Additionally, it is likely, unless restrained by this Court, that the Prosecution will seek testimony from the legislators who were members of the Senate Investigative Subcommittee that fall within the exclusive investigative and disciplinary jurisdiction of the Senate,” a lawyer for LCS wrote.

The AG’s office said LCS is objecting to questions that have not been asked yet.

“Instead, LCS makes blanket assertions of privilege based on what it believes the State is ‘likely’ to ask,” wrote attorneys with the AG’s office.

In a statement, Attorney General Hector Balderas took Legislative Council Service to task and called on them to be more transparent.

“As public servants we have an obligation to taxpayers and the citizens of New Mexico to be transparent and accountable, and the Legislative Council Service’s attempt to assert a blanket privilege on behalf of all legislators in this matter is obstructive to the administration of justice and the transparency that all New Mexicans deserve,” Balderas said.

This isn’t the first time the AG’s office had a disagreement with the legislators. Earlier this year, prosecutors abruptly left a committee hearing after a bill aimed at toughening child pornography consequences was changed.

Later, Sen. Lisa Torraco, R-Albuquerque, who is also a criminal defense attorney objected to members of the AG’s office being allowed on the floor as expert witnesses on an amendment to the bill, a rarity if not unique circumstance.

Griego faces a handful of corruption charges that stem from a real estate deal he brokered while serving in the Senate. Independent journalist Peter St. Cyr later brought the issue to light in a story for the Santa Fe Reporter and Griego eventually resigned from his position with less than a week left of the session.

Griego is due in court on July 5 for a preliminary hearing in Albuquerque.