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.
A high profile ballot proposal that would require businesses to provide paid sick leave to employees will likely not be on the ballot this November. A district judge in Albuquerque ruled Monday county commissioners legally have the discretion to deny ballot access to city initiatives during general elections. Second Judicial District Judge Alan Malott told a courtroom packed with advocates both for and against the paid sick leave initiative that he would not order the Bernalillo County Commission to add the proposal to the November general election ballot. “The county cannot be forced to include the proposed ordinance,” Malott said. Malott also ruled the full text of the order must be on the ballot when it does go in front of voters, which is likely in 2017.
Among questions following the gruesome rape and murder last week of an Albuquerque girl that sent shockwaves across New Mexico is how one of the alleged perpetrators was present to commit the violence in the first place. Fabian Gonzales, one of three being charged in the murder of 10-year-old Victoria Martens, was supposed to be on supervised probation for a separate crime for a year-and-a-half before the night of Martens’ death. In Febraury 2015, a judge sentenced Gonzales, 31, to two years of probation after he pleaded guilty to battery and abandonment of a child. This two-year probation sentence, however, was never enforced. The sentence prohibited Gonzales from using illegal drugs and subjected him to random drug testing.
Prosecutors with the New Mexico Attorney General’s office, a group of legislators, legislative support staff and one journalist are set to testify in the case against former New Mexico State Senator Phil Griego next week. According to a document filed by an attorney for the Legislative Council Service (LCS) earlier this week, 14 legislators and administrative staff who were called to testify are represented by Thomas Hnasko, counsel for LCS. Hnasko told NM Political Report that’s hard to say who if anyone he represents will decline to answer questions based on a speech and debate clause from state law that protects legislators from consequences on actions they make as legislators. He added that he doesn’t foresee many problems with lawmakers answering questions in court. “All legislators want to be as open as possible,” Hnasko said.
An Albuquerque district judge denied a motion by the administrative arm of the New Mexico Legislature to quash subpoenas of legislators to testify in the Phil Griego criminal case. Second Judicial District Judge Brett Loveless told lawyers with the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office and an attorney with the Legislative Council Service (LCS) that lawmakers can be subpoenaed but that they can still invoke a privilege to not testify if they choose. Loveless said the court would take it on a “circumstance by circumstance and a question by question” basis. The motion to quash the subpoenas came from the LCS when they argued that lawmakers are protected by a speech and debate clause which allows them to freely argue and vote on issues in Santa Fe without retaliation. Clara Moran, director of special prosecution with the AG said her office spoke with a number of lawmakers who said they are not represented by LCS and would likely not avoid testifying.
After weeks of recusals by judges, a district judge scheduled a preliminary hearing in the case against former New Mexico state Senator Phil Griego. District Court Judge Brett Loveless met briefly with lawyers from New Mexico Attorney General’s office and Griego’s attorney Monday afternoon to schedule the initial hearings leading up to Griego’s trial. Loveless and both parties agreed to begin the hearing process on July 5 in Albuquerque. Loveless said his schedule options are limited as he has other criminal cases already scheduled. Attorneys for the AG’s office requested that hearings that require witness testimony be scheduled in Santa Fe to avoid excess travel for witnesses.
An anti-abortion group in Albuquerque filed an appeal to a campaign finance decision by the city that ended with a public reprimand and $1,000 fine earlier this month. Protest ABQ, a group that opposes abortion in Albuquerque, is challenging the City of Albuquerque’s decision in the Second Judicial District Court. At issue is a ruling by the city’s Board of Ethics that Protest ABQ violated a city statute by not properly registering as a measured finance committee, or MFC, before spending money in October city elections. During the recent municipal election, Protest ABQ group sent out mailers that purportedly depicted a woman who died from an abortion as well as an aborted fetus. The mailers said District 6 candidate, and now incoming councilor, Pat Davis* supported late term abortions and said that he is too extreme for Albuquerque.
While the Bernalillo County Commission recently approved three large measures advancing the Santolina planned development, opponents aren’t giving up. Currently two lawsuits sit before the Second Judicial District Court seeking to reverse the decisions made by the commission on May and June. The most recent suit—filed at the end of June on behalf of three individuals, the SouthWest Organizing Project, the New Mexico Health Equity Working Group and the Pajarito Village Association—challenges the process in which commissioners approved zoning changes for Santolina. Santolina is proposed to be built on 22 square miles of land on Albuquerque’s West Side and house up to 90,000 within the next four to five decades. Specifically, the suit cites two pro-Santolina op-eds written in the Albuquerque Journal by commissioners Art De La Cruz and Wayne Johnson before they took several votes in favor of the development.
A two-year legal battle between an Albuquerque restaurant and a former employee over a dispute related to paying Albuquerque’s minimum wage is on its way to an end. In a settlement approved by a district court judge, the Route 66 Malt Shop and a former employee, Kevin O’Leary, agreed out of court in the case. The terms of the agreement are not public. On Wednesday after a day-long trial, both parties agreed to settle after which Second Judicial District Court Judge Denise Barela-Shepherd dismissed the jury. The court case began in 2013, when O’Leary’s attorneys, along with the City of Albuquerque, filed suit against the Route 66 Malt Shop and the family that operates it.