Supreme Court justice makes Law Day proclamation

New Mexico Supreme Court Justice C. Shannon Bacon announced Law Day observance on Monday through a proclamation released Friday. Law Day is celebrated every May 1 to help the public understand the legal profession better and to celebrate the role of law in our society, according to the American Bar Association which began hosting Law Day events in the late 1950’s following a proclamation by then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower. “Law Day reminds us that we must continue to work to improve access to justice, particularly for those unable to obtain legal assistance for civil matters,” Bacon said in a statement. “We must take steps together to reduce the access justice gap that many New Mexicans face, whether too often they cannot afford an attorney or they live in a part of the state where few lawyers and legal aid services are available.” 

Bacon’s proclamation lists ways people are helping to make courts more accessible and more equitable. These include legal service organizations that provide legal services for people who cannot afford them otherwise, Pro Bono Publico which private lawyers accept cases at no fee to the client, lawyer referral programs that help people find the legal services that best suits their case or situation and court programs that inform the public about laws, legal procedures and provide interpreters as needed

“We salute these efforts, but let us offer greater support to those who work daily to provide legal services to those who most need them,” Bacon’s proclamation states.

Abortion rights protestors rally in Washington D.C.

Whole Women’s Health opens clinic in Albuquerque, calls providing abortion care in the U.S. ‘human rights work’

In an unprecedented time in the reproductive healthcare landscape, one new Albuquerque abortion provider called providing abortions in the U.S. human rights work. Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and chief executive officer for Whole Women’s Health, talked to NM Political Report at length about what it took to relocate from Texas, where the nonprofit organization operated clinics in four cities, to Albuquerque last month. 

Whole Women’s Health, which previously ran clinics in the Texas cities of Austin, Fort Worth, McAllen and McKinney, opened its first clinic in Albuquerque near the airport on March 23. 

Whole Women’s Health is largely associated with Texas because it launched a lawsuit in 2013 to litigate a state TRAP [Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers] law requiring abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. 

In 2016 the U.S. Supreme Court heard Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt and opined that the state restriction was medically unnecessary and ruled in favor of Whole Women’s Health. In addition to Texas, the provider also operates clinics in Virginia, Maryland, Minnesota, Indiana and now, for the first time, New Mexico. Whole Women’s Health is part of a growing trend of abortion providers opening or relocating to New Mexico, which is now considered a safe haven state for abortion rights. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s pledge of $10 million to help open a full-spectrum reproductive healthcare clinic in Las Cruces was part of the capital outlay bill, in this past legislative session. 

But the road was long to get here, Hagstrom Miller said. 

“It’s been a really challenging year,” she said.“We have clinics or programs in six states so we’re not only in Texas.

Court temporarily blocks local anti-abortion regulations

The New Mexico Supreme Court halted anti-abortion ordinances pending a review on if they comply with a new state law. 

The court issued a stay to the counties of Roosevelt and Lea and the municipalities of Hobbs and Clovis on abortion-regulating ordinances on Friday. The court’s action comes in response to New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez’s filing a stay request with the court and the court is requesting all parties to file briefs regarding what effect the Reproductive  and Gender-Affirming Health Care Freedom Act has on the local anti-abortion regulations they passed in the last five months. The Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Health Care bill, recently signed into law by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, was designed to end what bill sponsor, state Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Santa Fe, frequently referred to as a “patchwork” of abortion access around the state. The new law prohibits local bodies from discriminating against abortion care and gender-affirming healthcare. The counties of Roosevelt and Lea and the Hobbs and Clovis passed anti-abortion ordinances in the last five months in an effort to make abortion medication, which is federally approved, from being sent by mail and to establish business license regulations for abortion clinics.

NM Supreme Court hears arguments in Four Corners ownership transfer case

The New Mexico Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in the Public Service Company of New Mexico’s appeal of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission’s rejection of an application to transfer the utility’s share of the Four Corners Power Plant to Navajo Transitional Energy Company. 

The PRC rejected the utility’s request to transfer its ownership shares in the Four Corners Power Plant in 2021, going against the recommendation of the hearing examiner to approve the application. Related: PRC denies PNM’s application to transfer power plant ownership to NTEC

The arguments focused on whether PNM had met requirements for presenting options for replacing the power generated by the coal-fired power plant. PNM’s attorney, Richard Alvidrez, argued that the utility had presented models for replacing the electricity from the Four Corners Power Plant, but Carolyn Glick, representing the PRC, described those models as hypotheticals that were not enough to convince the commission that there would be adequate power to meet customer energy demands. 

Alvidrez argued that models have been allowed in the past, but Glick said that supply chain challenges had delayed the replacement resources for the San Juan Generating Station and that contributed to the PRC wanting more detailed information about replacement resources for the Four Corners Power Plant. “The commission has a duty to keep the lights on,” she said. She said the details that PNM provided about replacement resources for Four Corners were vague and did not even include how much of each type of replacement generation source PNM planned to use.

New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice C. Shannon Bacon approaches the lectern in the state house chamber to deliver the State of the Judiciary address to a joint session of the New Mexico Legislature Tuesday, January 24, 2022.

Supreme Court Chief Justice talks virtual hearings, criminal justice reform

New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice Shannon Bacon addressed the Legislature during a joint legislative session on Tuesday. This was the first time in four years a State of the Judiciary Address has been delivered in New Mexico. “The Judiciary is battered and bruised, strong, resilient, creative, committed, and caring. I hope through my words today, this will be evident,” Bacon said. Bacon discussed four issues including the judiciary’s efforts through the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting programs that help the community, criminal justice reform and the judiciary’s legislative requests.

No decision yet after NM Supreme Court hears redistricting case oral arguments

Oral arguments in the case that claimed Republicans were gerrymandered out of a congressional seat during the recent redistricting cycle went in front of the state Supreme Court Monday. The Republican Party of New Mexico and others filed the case against the State of New Mexico. Ninth Judicial District Judge Fred van Soelen filed a verified writ of superintending control against the state, prompting the high court to take the case. Both sides presented their cases to the state’s high court which adjourned shortly after the hearing without making a decision. “This is an issue of significant importance and we want to be deliberative,” Bacon said.” And because there is a stay in place and we’re a little ways out from the next electoral process, we don’t feel the need to act as quickly as we might otherwise.

A "Vote Here" sign at the Otero County Fairgrounds in Alamogordo.

2022 General Election certified, two recounts upcoming

The New Mexico State Canvassing Board certified the 2022 General Election at their Nov. 29 meeting. The election results were certified after a third-party auditor declared no findings and the election results were sent to the canvassing board for certification. “Our office worked closely with our county clerks across the state of both political parties to ensure we all had the information and the tools necessary to conduct a successful election,” New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse-Oliver said. “This was absolutely a team effort.”

The Nov.

State Supreme Court dismisses Couy Griffin appeal over removal from office

The New Mexico Supreme Court denied an appeal from former Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin in the case that removed him from office based on his actions during the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection. The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Griffin failed to file a statement of issues within 30 days of his notice of appeal. By state statute, this failure is grounds for the case’s dismissal. “This is an affirmation that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment can and should be enforced against all the January 6th insurrectionists who took an oath to defend the Constitution, whether they are current or former officeholders.

NM Supreme Court presses pause on rate credits for PNM customers

Customers of the state’s largest electric utility will continue paying the same rate they were paying when the San Juan Generating Station was operating—at least for now. Earlier this year, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission ordered Public Service Company of New Mexico to issue rate credits to prevent customers from paying for the operations of a now-closed coal-fired power plant that customers no longer benefit from. PNM promptly appealed this order to the New Mexico Supreme Court and asked the court to stay the implementation of the rate credits until after the case is resolved. On Tuesday, the court granted this stay. That means customers will only see the rate credits if the state Supreme Court rules in favor of the state regulatory commission. 

Mariel Nanasi, the executive director of New Energy Economy and one of PNM’s more vocal critics, expressed disappointment with Tuesday’s decision.

Use it or lose it: NM Supreme Court rules unused water rights can be lost even if some of the water is used

New Mexicans who do not use all of their groundwater rights for a certain length of time can lose the rights to the unused portion, according to a new ruling out of the state Supreme Court. A well that once provided water to steam engines on a bustling railroad in the now-defunct railroad and mining town of Cutter, located in Sierra County near Truth or Consequences, ceased operations. Since then, only three acre-feet of water per year has been used and the water rights have been transferred to a new owner. This water came from a well built to supply the railroad and livestock. Cutter dates back to the late 1800s when it formed as a mining community.