New Mexico sues over talc, citing marketing aimed at African-American and Hispanic New Mexico women and children

New Mexico sued Johnson & Johnson and Valeant Pharmaceuticals over talc-based products it allegedly knew were laced with contamination while specifically marketing those products to African-American and Hispanic New Mexican women and children. Attorney General Hector Balderas filed the suit Friday in the First Judicial District Court of New Mexico. Although thousands of individuals have sued Johnson & Johnson over the manufacture and sale of talc products that allegedly contain toxic substances, New Mexico is one of the first states to seek punitive damages through legal action. New Mexico alleges that “to grow the franchise,” Johnson & Johnson specifically targeted African-American and Hispanic women and children because the company’s studies showed that those two ethnicities used Johnson’s Baby Powder products at higher rates. New Mexico’s brief states that this disproportionately affects New Mexico citizens because 48 percent of the population is made up of African-American and Hispanic people.

UNM to reevaluate IPRA policy after NM Political Report complaint

The University of New Mexico is reevaluating its policy of charging for electronic copies of public records on a per-page basis in response to a reprimand from the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office. In an email to NM Political Report, the school’s Office of University Counsel said the UNM public records custodian is “evaluating the fee structure” for fulfilling requests of electronic records. Associate University Counsel Patrick Hart also wrote that the public records department will suspend the policy and practice of charging $0.38 a page for electronic records through the end of September. The change comes after the state Attorney General’s office issued a determination letter in response to a complaint filed by NM Political Report. NM Political Report filed the complaint after the UNM’s Custodian of Public Records billed $0.38 a page for an electronic file that contained more than 1,600 pages.

UNM fees for public records violate law

The University of New Mexico violated state law when it didn’t properly fulfill records requests from NM Political Report, according to the New Mexico Attorney General’s office. A determination letter from Assistant Attorney General John Kreienkamp, in response to a complaint filed by NM Political Report, cited two violations of the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA). In one instance, the university failed to provide records in the statutorily required amount of time. In another instance, the AG’s office determined that UNM violated state law by charging $0.38 per page to transfer more than 1,600 pages in a single electronic file. “Based on our review of the evidence and applicable laws, we conclude that the University’s proposed fees violated IPRA,” Kreienkamp wrote.

Lawsuit: AG violated open records law

An Alamogordo resident filed an open records lawsuit against the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General Friday, alleging the office illegally redacted portions of legal invoices related to a U.S. Supreme Court case. Open records activist Wendy Irby filed the suit after she received significantly-redacted billing records for a contract between the Attorney General’s office and an Albuquerque law firm well-known in the state legal world for government contracts. According to court records, Irby asked the AG’s office for billing information from Robles, Rael and Anaya P.C. related to Texas v. New Mexico and Colorado, a case about the states’ water use and sharing. The private law firm argued the case on behalf of the AG’s office. Irby’s lawsuit says Attorney General Hector Balderas and his records custodian violated the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) by blacking out billing specifics from Robles Rael & Anaya.

NM regulators take up ambitious clean-energy standard

SANTA FE, N.M. – People who want New Mexico to have its own clean-energy standard are making their case today to the state’s Public Regulation Commission. Supporters say it would help the state determine its role in addressing climate change. The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office and consumer advocates have petitioned the commission to consider the standard in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in the state by 4 percent a year through 2040. While the Trump administration continues to talk about bringing back coal, said Shannon Hughes, an attorney with the group Climate Guardians, New Mexico is going in the opposite direction. “The reality is that American utilities and consumers are moving on from this dirty, expensive fuel,” she said.

State Sen, AG step back from solicitation case amid media attention

A Republican State Senator and criminal defense attorney withdrew from a criminal case last month, citing media attention. She says the attention was solicited by the state Attorney General’s office. In her motion to withdraw, Sen. Lisa Torraco, R-Albuquerque, wrote that Democratic Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office “made false statements to the media” that interfered with her clients right to a fair trial. “The Office of the Attorney General has successfully made Ms. Torraco’s representation of the defendant a media centerpiece and it is impairing the defendant’s opportunity for a fair trial,” Torraco wrote. About a week after Torraco withdrew from the case, the AG’s office itself stepped aside and appointed special prosecutor Mark Drebing, former deputy for Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg (a Democrat).

Lawmaker says AG is retaliating by trying to kick her off case

A New Mexico state lawmaker is going head to head with the state Attorney General in her private capacity as an attorney. And she thinks it relates back to something from the most recent state legislative session. The Attorney General’s office sought to remove State Sen. Lisa Torraco, R-Albuquerque, from a case in 2nd Judicial District Court. Torraco represents Tyler Danzer in a case where Attorney General Hector Balderas charged Danzer with child solicitation and tampering with evidence. The Attorney General’s office filed a motion last week to remove Torraco from the case, arguing she has a conflict of interest after she advised Danzer to close his email account.

Griego waives arraignment in criminal trial

Former New Mexico State Senator Phil Griego successfully waived his arraignment for a criminal trial involving a handful of felonies including bribery and  fraud charges. Griego’s attorney Tom Clark told NM Political Report on Tuesday that a motion to waive the arraignment was filed earlier in the week, acknowledging the charges against the former lawmaker and entering a not-guilty plea. On Wednesday, a spokesman for the New Mexico Attorney General’s office confirmed that Griego waived his right to be formally arraigned. The hearing scheduled for Friday will be vacated. On the last day of the preliminary hearing where District Court Judge Brett Loveless said there was probable cause to move forward on a trial, the judge suggested that Griego did not seem to pose a risk to the public and is not likely to flee the state.

SOS will not fill legal position

The New Mexico Secretary of State’s head lawyer left her post last month to practice law in the private sector and at least one advocacy group is unsure about the lack of a replacement. Former Legal Counsel for the Secretary of State Amy Bailey’s last day was June 17. “I have only wonderful things to say about the Secretary and the office as a whole,” Bailey said. “Leaving was bittersweet, but was a life choice for me.”

A spokesman for the office said Bailey’s position will not be filled until a new Secretary is elected in November’s general election. “Secretary Winter has decided to let the next Secretary of State fill this position,” Chief of Staff Ken Ortiz said in a statement.

Lawmaker who carried legislation to allow sale of state building comes to Griego’s defense

A state representative seemed to defend the actions of a former state senator who prosecutors say broke the law by benefiting from a real estate deal made possible by legislation. Rep. Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, sponsored the legislation that prosecutors say was pushed—behind the scenes—by former State Senator Phil Griego. Trujillo testified Thursday that Griego asked him to carry legislation that would authorize the sale of a state-owned building, but never thought Griego was being nefarious. When Assistant Attorney General Zach Jones asked Trujillo if he would have carried the legislation knowing that Griego would financially benefit, Trujillo said he would. “Those arrangements are his business not my business,” Trujillo said.