Advocates, elected officials and the public respond with rallies and outrage over Supreme Court draft decision on abortion rights

The leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court decision on the case that appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade woke up many on Tuesday to a “shocking” reality which may be imminent. Politico released on Monday a leaked draft document, dated February from the Supreme Court. The document is a majority opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case the court heard in early December. Because the document is still a draft, there is still opportunity for the court to rule differently in late June or early July, though it appears unlikely with the current makeup of the court. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito authored the draft, which overturns Roe v. Wade and rules in favor of the state of Mississippi in the Dobbs case.

AG, SOS issue warning over Otero County ‘vigilante audit’

The state’s top elections official and top lawyer issued a warning over an election “audit” taking place in Otero County, telling residents they are under no obligation to participate in the audit or provide any information. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, in a call with media members on Wednesday, referred to the effort as a “vigilante audit” and said “there is nothing that is legitimate about this process in my point of view.”

It came to light after a TikTok video by an Otero County voter received lots of attention when she highlighted a visit from a group called the New Mexico Audit Force. 

The effort, which echoes efforts made by conservatives and some far-right politicians throughout the country regarding the 2020 elections, was authorized by the Otero County Commission and outsourced to the New Mexico Audit Force. That group is sending volunteers door-to-door to speak to voters and gather personal information. Attorney General Hector Balderas and Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver issued a release to remind voters of their rights and what information is publicly available in the form of voter records. No voter is required to provide information on who they voted for or on how they voted on ballot issues, the two reminded.

Federal judge: Cowboys for Trump must disclose donors

A Donald Trump-supporting political group run by a controversial New Mexico county commissioner must disclose its donors, a federal appeals court judge ruled Tuesday, affirming a lower court’s previous decision. The judge ruled in a case where Cowboys for Trump challenged the constitutionality of New Mexico’s Campaign Reporting Act, after the Secretary of State ordered the group to identify who funded the group. State Attorney General Hector Balderas heralded the decision. “All elected officials and dark money groups in this nation must follow election reporting requirements in order to protect the public interest, and no one is above the law,” he said. Cowboys for Trump is run by Couy Griffin, an Otero County commissioner who traveled throughout the country in support of former President Donald Trump.

Guv: Legislature’s inability to tackle crime ‘defies explanation’

A day after the mother of a teenage murder victim cried at the Capitol as lawmakers approved a bill said to be lenient on criminals, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham embarked on a public relations campaign that shifted the blame for lack of action on her “tough-on-crime” agenda to the Legislature. Lujan Grisham, a Democrat running for re-election this year, told reporters “it defies explanation” why lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled Legislature have been unable to reach consensus on bills meant to fight crime in New Mexico. “I don’t understand why they don’t want to tackle it head on, but I’m going to stay the course for as long as it takes because we all have a responsibility to our families and our communities to do everything we can about it,” Lujan Grisham said. 

A short time later, her office issued a news release stating the governor, along with Attorney General Hector Balderas and members of her public safety team, had met with the mothers of violent crime victims, including Nicole Chavez, who was in tears at the Capitol a day earlier as the Senate passed a controversial bill on a sentencing option for juveniles convicted of first-degree murder. “Governor, Attorney General meet with family of crime victims, reiterate commitment to meaningful action,” the news release proclaimed. “I am deeply troubled and frustrated by the Legislature’s reluctance to take meaningful action — and New Mexicans should be outraged,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement in the news release, which included pictures of the governor sitting across from Chavez and Angel Alire, whose son also was gunned down in Albuquerque.

New Mexico AG joins suit to fight Texas six-week gestational abortion ban

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas joined attorneys general from 22 other states and the District of Columbia on an amicus brief in support of the U.S. Attorney General’s suit against Texas’ six-week gestation ban. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is the lead on the brief but Balderas spoke along with Healey during a press conference held virtually on Wednesday to discuss the amicus brief and the Texas law that went into effect at the beginning of September. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced last week the U.S. Department of Justice is suing Texas to stop the unconstitutional six-week gestational abortion ban. The attorney’s general amicus brief is a document that provides support to the DOJ’s lawsuit. Calling the Texas six-week gestational ban “another reckless attempt at Texas restricting the rights of women and families across this country,” Balderas cited the various ways the Texas law is harming individuals living in New Mexico.

New Mexico sues, argues interim nuclear storage facility could put environment, economy at risk

Concerns that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not properly vetted a proposal to locate a nuclear waste storage facility in Lea and Eddy counties led New Mexico to file a lawsuit on Monday in U.S. District Court. Holtec International, a New Jersey-based company, filed an application in 2017 for a license to construct and operate an interim storage facility in New Mexico. This comes as the United States lacks long-term storage for nuclear waste generated during power production and has been searching for a solution. While searching for solutions, interim storage facilities have been identified as one possible solution. 

The state argues that the license is outside of the scope of authority for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission because of the impacts the facility could have to the people of New Mexico. These potential impacts could be both economic and environmental, according to the suit.

Trump campaign drops election lawsuit nearly 70 days after election day

Donald Trump’s campaign dropped a lawsuit over the use of ballot drop boxes in New Mexico’s elections—part of the campaign’s nationwide, unsuccessful efforts to overturn election results after he lost his reelection bid. 

The campaign filed the lawsuit in mid-December, weeks after the election and after the state had certified its election results and the same day New Mexico’s electors cast their ballots for Democrat Joe Biden. The lawsuit centered on the legality of ballot dropboxes for absentee ballots, and echoed a lawsuit filed in state court by the party. The party withdrew that lawsuit ahead of the election after it said the party came to a “consensual resolution” with the Secretary of State. Like the other lawsuits, dozens of which the campaign had dismissed or lost, the lawsuit was aimed at overturning election results. But unlike in some states with relatively close margins of victory for Joe Biden, Trump lost the election in New Mexico by nearly 100,000 votes and over 11 percentage points.

NM AG signs onto brief opposing TX suit that seeks to overturn presidential election

Update: The Supreme Court dismissed the case on Friday. The story, as originally written, continues below. New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas signed onto an amicus brief from the New York Attorney General opposing a Texas lawsuit that seeks to invalidate the election results in four states won by Democrat Joe Biden. The lawsuit from Texas, which received the support of 17 Republican attorneys general and over 100 Republican members of the U.S. House, is a longshot attempt to have the U.S. Supreme Court overturn certified victories in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia by Biden and hand the victory to incumbent Donald Trump despite the Republican receiving fewer votes. The suit claims that changes in election procedures in those states led to an unfair election—and called for millions of votes to be invalidated based on how they were cast.

NM argues against compensating businesses impacted by emergency public health orders

The state of New Mexico, through the state Attorney General’s Office, filed a brief on Monday with the New Mexico Supreme Court that argued the emergency public health orders do not warrant compensation to business owners. 

The brief is the latest in a pending state Supreme Court case spurred by a request from state Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office in October. Balderas’ office asked the high court to answer the question of whether ordering a business to shut down as part of an emergency public health order constitutes taking that business, or eminent domain. 

Since this past summer, there have been a dozen state district court cases filed by local business owners, arguing that those owners are due compensation from the state. Balderas’ office asked the state Supreme Court to weigh-in on the matter to save time and resources in those district court cases. 

The high court agreed to take on the case and asked for briefs and responses from both the state and the group of business owners who are currently suing the state. 

In the brief filed on Monday, Balderas’ office argued that the state’s Public Health Emergency Response Act only allows for compensation of medical supply companies or medical providers that would be hypothetically taken over by the state during a public health emergency. Even if the law allowed for compensation, Balderas’ office argued, it would make it nearly impossible for the state to take action during an emergency. “This specter of liability would hobble the State’s ability to take emergency action — whether destroying a burning building or prohibiting activity known to spread a pandemic — that is necessary to protect health and safety,” the brief read. 

The brief also argued that ordering businesses to close temporarily should not be hindered by second thoughts or concerns that the state may be liable for lost revenue.  

“The State should not be hamstrung in its efforts to respond to emergencies and stop activities that endanger the public by the prospect of liability,” the Attorney General’s office wrote.

Bernalillo County District Attorney signs statement that he won’t criminalize abortion care

Raúl Torrez, Bernalillo County District Attorney, signed a joint statement from elected prosecutors around the country who pledged not to criminalize abortion care. Bernalillo County is home to most of the clinics that provide abortions in the state. An additional clinic exists in both Santa Fe County and Doña Ana County. The statement, produced by Fair and Just Prosecution, a fiscally-sponsored project of a public charity called The Tides Center, stated that the 62 prosecutors who signed it would neither prosecute nor criminalize abortion care. “What brings us together is our view that as prosecutors we should not and will not criminalize healthcare decisions such as these – and we believe it is our obligation as elected prosecutors charged with protecting the health and safety of all members of our community to make our views clear,” according to the statement.