2017 Top Stories #1: Guv’s office faces lawsuits

Next month marks the beginning of Gov. Susana Martinez’s last year in office. This year, though, was peppered with lawsuits against either Martinez’s office or state departments under her appointees. At least two of the three major suits will spill over to 2018, bookending Martinez’s tenure as governor. See all of our year-end stories A […]

2017 Top Stories #1: Guv’s office faces lawsuits

Next month marks the beginning of Gov. Susana Martinez’s last year in office.

This year, though, was peppered with lawsuits against either Martinez’s office or state departments under her appointees. At least two of the three major suits will spill over to 2018, bookending Martinez’s tenure as governor.

See all of our year-end stories

A lawsuit against the New Mexico Public Education Department for allegedly underfunding the state’s schools received significant media attention in 2017. The case goes back several years and consolidated three similar cases. The suit against PED finally went to trial in front of state District Court Judge Sarah Singleton in July. Plaintiffs in the case, which included New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, argued that failing schools around the state are a result of inadequate funding by the state. PED officials argued  that school performances are not indicative of funding.

Singleton is expected to issue a ruling next year after each side submits written closing arguments. Singleton retired last year but agreed to stay on the PED case as a pro tem judge.

Singleton agreed to stay on as a judge in another case against the Martinez administration, this one against the governor’s executive staff.

In 2013, the Santa Fe Reporter, an alt-weekly newspaper based in the state capital, filed a lawsuit against Martinez for allegedly shutting out the paper for interviews and violating the state Inspection of Public Records Act. The Reporter suit went to trial for three days in March, with the governor’s former  office staffers and former and current journalists from the paper testifying.

Singleton asked lawyers in the case to submit closing statements and rebuttals in writing, which effectively dragged the case on for months.

This month, Singleton ruled in favor of Martinez in terms of granting access to preferred news outlets, but in favor of the Reporter for IPRA violations. Either side can appeal Singleton’s ruling, but must notify the court of their intentions by December 28. If either side decides to appeal, the case will roll over to the new year. Albuquerque attorney Paul Kennedy served as contract counsel for Martinez in the case, but is also in the center of another lawsuit against a state agency.

In June, weeks before Kennedy submitted his closing argument in the Reporter case, journalist Jeff Proctor filed a lawsuit against the state General Services Department for allegedly violating IPRA. Proctor originally sought payment and billing records for the legal work Kennedy did for Martinez. According to Proctor’s previous reporting, Kennedy was awarded legal contracts for at least $700,000 in public money, although at least one record Proctor found showed contracts amounting to more than $800,000. In his suit, Proctor’s lawyers argued GSD should have turned over the specifics of Kennedy’s billings as it’s ultimately taxpayers’ money.

Lawyers hired by GSD argued the specific billing documents are protected as attorney-client privilege and therefore not subject to IPRA. According to court records, there has been at least one meeting between lawyers for each side and state District Judge Raymond Ortiz has mandated a mediation before a trial takes place sometime next summer or fall.

We're ad free

That means that we rely on support from readers like you. Help us keep reporting on the most important New Mexico Stories by donating today.

Related

Senators throw support to embattled Ivey-Soto

Senators throw support to embattled Ivey-Soto

By Justin Horwath, New Mexico In Dept Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto is running for a fourth term despite the state Democratic Party’s decision to censure…
AG announces legislative priorities for upcoming special session

AG announces legislative priorities for upcoming special session

Attorney General Raúl Torrez announced on Thursday his legislative priorities for July’s special legislative session, including the creation of a crime victim’s unit to…
Correa Hemphill to step down from legislature

Correa Hemphill to step down from legislature

State Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill, a Democrat from Silver City, won’t seek reelection in the general election in November, leaving SD 28, a swing…
EPA announces $18.9M in funding to address PFAS contamination in New Mexico

EPA announces $18.9M in funding to address PFAS contamination in New Mexico

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded the New Mexico Environment Department nearly $19 million to address PFAS and other emerging contaminants in drinking water.…
Environmental historian reflects on the legacies of Aldo Leopold and the Gila Wilderness

Environmental historian reflects on the legacies of Aldo Leopold and the Gila Wilderness

One hundred years ago, conservationist Aldo Leopold proposed designating 500,000 acres of land in the Gila National Forest as an area where no roads…

A rare NM lizard is now listed as endangered

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added the dunes sagebrush lizard to the list of endangered species on Friday and is expected to designate…
Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican The main things that bring Brayan Chavez to school every day: Seeing, talking to and engaging with…
Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican Brittany Behenna Griffith has a laundry list of adjectives to describe the ideal special education teacher:…
Lawmakers must find consensus on competing education spending plans

Lawmakers must find consensus on competing education spending plans

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican A challenging task awaits New Mexico lawmakers in the next 30 days: Reconciling three very different…
Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf answered questions about the safety of human milk formula and mifepristone on Wednesday. Sen. Martin…
Health workers fear it’s profits before protection as CDC revisits airborne transmission

Health workers fear it’s profits before protection as CDC revisits airborne transmission

Amy Maxmen, KFF Health News Four years after hospitals in New York City overflowed with covid-19 patients, emergency physician Sonya Stokes remains shaken by…
Lujan Grisham, Biden admin announce $10 million in federal funds for tribes, pueblos

Lujan Grisham, Biden admin announce $10 million in federal funds for tribes, pueblos

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Friday $10 million in funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act was awarded to six tribal nations and…
Lujan Grisham talks reproductive healthcare with CNN host

Lujan Grisham talks reproductive healthcare with CNN host

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham warned that banning contraceptives “could be next” when talking to a CNN host about New Mexico’s border and abortion issues.…
UNM approves land acquisition for Las Cruces reproductive health center

UNM approves land acquisition for Las Cruces reproductive health center

Thursday, the University of New Mexico Board of Regents approved a land acquisition for a full-spectrum reproductive healthcare center, that will include abortion care,…
Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

Heinrich questions FDA leadership on baby formula safety, mifepristone

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf answered questions about the safety of human milk formula and mifepristone on Wednesday. Sen. Martin…
Lujan Grisham talks reproductive healthcare with CNN host

Lujan Grisham talks reproductive healthcare with CNN host

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham warned that banning contraceptives “could be next” when talking to a CNN host about New Mexico’s border and abortion issues.…
Study: Marriage equality has had a positive impact

Study: Marriage equality has had a positive impact

A recent study found that in the 20 years since Massachusetts became the first state in the U.S. to grant same-sex marriage licenses, same-sex…
UNM approves land acquisition for Las Cruces reproductive health center

UNM approves land acquisition for Las Cruces reproductive health center

Thursday, the University of New Mexico Board of Regents approved a land acquisition for a full-spectrum reproductive healthcare center, that will include abortion care,…
State Ethics Commission sues Apodacas dark money operation

State Ethics Commission sues Apodacas dark money operation

By Marjorie Childress, New Mexico In Depth The State Ethics Commission on Friday sued a dark money group and its president, Jeff Apodaca, to force disclosure…
Lujan Grisham talks reproductive healthcare with CNN host

Lujan Grisham talks reproductive healthcare with CNN host

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham warned that banning contraceptives “could be next” when talking to a CNN host about New Mexico’s border and abortion issues.…
Senators throw support to embattled Ivey-Soto

Senators throw support to embattled Ivey-Soto

By Justin Horwath, New Mexico In Dept Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto is running for a fourth term despite the state Democratic Party’s decision to censure…
State Ethics Commission sues Apodacas dark money operation

State Ethics Commission sues Apodacas dark money operation

By Marjorie Childress, New Mexico In Depth The State Ethics Commission on Friday sued a dark money group and its president, Jeff Apodaca, to force disclosure…
EPA announces $18.9M in funding to address PFAS contamination in New Mexico

EPA announces $18.9M in funding to address PFAS contamination in New Mexico

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded the New Mexico Environment Department nearly $19 million to address PFAS and other emerging contaminants in drinking water.…
State putting pressure on firms that manage Medicaid to help solve behavioral health access problems

State putting pressure on firms that manage Medicaid to help solve behavioral health access problems

By Gabrielle Porter, The Santa Fe New Mexican New Mexico’s Medicaid middlemen need more skin in the game. That’s the message from Human Services…

GET INVOLVED

© 2023 New Mexico Political Report