New Mexico’s Chief Public Defender announced his resignation earlier this week. Jorge Alvarado held the position since 2013 when he was hired to oversee the newly structured state entity under a governing commission instead of as an agency under the governor. In a letter announcing his resignation, for Alvarado alluded to issues of oversight for the office and wrote that he no longer felt that he could effectively run the office. “I have decided to resign as I believe things have gotten to the point that I can no longer be effective in helping to achieve the ultimate goal,” Alvarado wrote. “There is just too much resistance and unreasonable expectations with too many people wanting to run the office to be effective and orderly in the continued transition and growth of this organization.”
The newly-formed Public Defender Commission appointed Alvarado as Chief Public Defender in 2013.
The Second Judicial District Attorney and Albuquerque Police Department chief told members of the New Mexico Supreme Court Tuesday that a court order on time limits for trials needed to be changed. The comments came during a meeting on the case management order (CMO) from the Supreme Court to those in Bernalillo County. Among those giving feedback on the CMO were Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg, Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden Eden, Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales and Chief Public Defender Jorge Alvarado. The high court previously mandated the CMO amid concern that Bernalillo County wasn’t prosecuting felony cases fast enough as jails overcrowded. Among its changes are a mandate that arraignment comes 10 days after either an indictment, arrest or filing of criminal information of a case—whatever comes last.
In a report to an interim legislative committee, the New Mexico Law Offices of the Public Defender told lawmakers the situation for public defenders in the state is getting better, but that they still need more funding. Chief Public Defender Jorge Alvarado told the Legislative Finance Committee on Friday that his office is on its way to filling 33 staff attorney positions this year, but that contract counsel is still a problem. In his presentation, Alvarado said his office is struggling to maintain an adequate amount of contract attorneys to defend cases in rural parts of the state. He added that even with a standard of having “a heartbeat and a bar card” for contract attorneys, low flat rates for contracts makes it hard to attract lawyers. The Law Offices of the Public Defender has long advocated for hourly rates over flat fees in order to properly defend clients in court.