As New Mexico’s counties begin certifying vote totals in the 2022 Midterm election, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and Attorney General Hector Balderas issued a joint statement on Nov. 15 that warned of possible disruptions to the election certification process during county commission meetings. “This week, New Mexico’s county commissions are playing their vital role in the administration of our elections by performing their legal duties as the county canvassing boards in their respective counties,” the statement said. “The ‘canvass’ is the process of reconciling and confirming the accuracy of the election results and reporting those results to the county and then to the state. Under the law, these county boards support the county clerk in the canvass of the election and are mainly responsible for ensuring the timely certification of the county clerk’s report of canvass.
The New Mexico Supreme Court this week scheduled oral arguments for a case regarding medical cannabis sales and gross receipts taxes.
Lawyers for the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office and two medical cannabis businesses will have an opportunity to make their respective arguments on Feb. 28 as to whether or not medical cannabis sales should have been exempt from gross receipts taxes prior to the state’s Cannabis Regulation Act that went into effect last June.
The issue goes back several years to when medical cannabis producer Sacred Garden asked the state’s Taxation and Revenue Department for a refund of multiple years worth of gross receipts taxes the company paid. Initially, a hearing officer ruled in favor of the state, but that ruling was eventually reversed by the New Mexico Court of Appeals. In February 2020, the state took the issue to the state supreme court, where it has been pending since. In June 2021, medical cannabis company Ultra Health joined the case as an amicus curiae, or friend of the court.
In previous court filings, Sacred Garden and Ultra Health argued that like prescription drugs, medical cannabis should have always been exempt from the state’s gross receipts tax, which is sometimes incorrectly referred to as a sales tax.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.