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Plaintiff and the corporate Defendants freely negotiated and entered into a clear and unambiguous contract for Plaintiff to sell their insurance policies. In the contract, Plaintiff consented to a provision allowing Defendants to immediately terminate the contract if he breached it in any one of five different specified ways. Plaintiff breached the contract, and Defendants exercised their right to terminate. Plaintiff sued Defendants under numerous theories of liability for terminating the contract, including under the doctrine of prima facie tort, asserting that Defendants had nefarious reasons for terminating the contract. After review, the New Mexico Supreme Court held that when a contract is clear, unambiguous, and freely entered into, the public policy favoring freedom of contract precludes a cause of action for prima facie tort when the gravamen of the allegedly tortious action was the defendant’s exercise of a contractual right. View "Beaudry v. Farmers Ins. Exch." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and the corporate Defendants freely negotiated and entered into a clear and unambiguous contract for Plaintiff to sell their insurance policies. In the contract, Plaintiff consented to a provision allowing Defendants to immediately terminate the contract if he breached it in any one of five different specified ways. Plaintiff breached the contract, and Defendants exercised their right to terminate. Plaintiff sued Defendants under numerous theories of liability for terminating the contract, including under the doctrine of prima facie tort, asserting that Defendants had nefarious reasons for terminating the contract. After review, the New Mexico Supreme Court held that when a contract is clear, unambiguous, and freely entered into, the public policy favoring freedom of contract precludes a cause of action for prima facie tort when the gravamen of the allegedly tortious action was the defendant’s exercise of a contractual right. View "Beaudry v. Farmers Ins. Exch." on Justia Law

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The State of New Mexico appealed the suppression of two statements made by sixteen-year-old Filemon V. Filemon made the first statement to his probation officers. The New Mexico Supreme Court held that, absent a valid waiver, Section 32A-2-14(C) of the Delinquency Act of the Children’s Code precluded the admission of Filemon’s statement to his probation officers while in investigatory detention. The Court affirmed the district court’s order suppressing the use of the statement in a subsequent prosecution. The second contested statement was elicited by police officers at the Silver City Police Department. Filemon was at this point in custody, and entitled to be warned of his Miranda rights. At issue was whether the midstream Miranda warnings were sufficient to inform Filemon of his rights. The Supreme Court concluded the warnings were insufficient under Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600 (2004). Because the statement was elicited in clear violation of the Fifth Amendment and Section 32A-2- 19 14, the district court’s suppression of the statement was affirmed. View "New Mexico v. Filemon V." on Justia Law

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In this case, the New Mexico Supreme Court was asked to address the nature of evidentiary presentation required by the new detention authority approved by the New Mexico Legislature in February 2016 and passed by New Mexico voters in the November 2016 general election. The Court agreed with courts in all other federal and state bail reform jurisdictions that have considered the same issues, and held that the showing of dangerousness required by the new constitutional authority was not bound by formal rules of evidence but instead focuses on judicial assessment of all reliable information presented to the court in any format worthy of reasoned consideration. "The probative value of the information, rather than the technical form, is the proper focus of the inquiry at a pretrial detention hearing." In most cases, credible proffers and other summaries of evidence, law enforcement and court records, or other nontestimonial information should be sufficient support for an informed decision that the state either has or has not met its constitutional burden. But the Supreme Court also agreed with other jurisdictions that a court necessarily retains the judicial discretion to find proffered or documentary information insufficient to meet the constitutional clear and convincing evidence requirement in the context of particular cases. View "New Mexico ex rel. Torrez v. Whitaker" on Justia Law

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Defendant Elexus Groves was indicted on two counts of first-degree murder and other serious felony offenses. In this interlocutory appeal, she challenged a district court order of pretrial detention that was based on two independent and alternative detention grounds contained in Article II, Section 13 of the New Mexico Constitution. The New Mexico Supreme Court held after review that the district court’s detention order was lawfully based on the new constitutional authority for pretrial detention of dangerous defendants, and affirmed on that ground. As a result, there was no need to address the issues Defendant raised relating to the alternative ground for the district court’s action based on the old capital-offense exception. View "New Mexico v. Groves" on Justia Law

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The New Mexico Supreme Court examined whether the constitutional right to confrontation was forfeited as a result of a defendant’s own wrongdoing. Specifically, the Court questioned whether the wrongdoing required an overt threat of harm to procure a witness’s silence or absence. When the State’s witness, Juliana Barela, Defendant Joshua Maestas’s girlfriend, refused to testify at trial, the district court declared her unavailable. The State then requested that the district court find that Defendant had obtained Barela’s unavailability by wrongdoing, and to therefore admit at trial testimony Barela gave to the grand jury, a statement she made to police, and a call she made to 911 operators. In support of its claim that Defendant had procured and intended to procure Barela’s unavailability by way of misconduct, the State offered recorded jailhouse phone conversations between Defendant and Barela. The district court determined that Defendant had neither caused nor intended to cause by any wrongdoing Barela’s decision not to testify, concluded Barela’s prior statements were thus inadmissible, and dismissed Defendant’s indictment. The State appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s ruling. The Supreme Court held that wrongdoing, for purposes of the forfeiture-by-wrongdoing exception, need not take the form of overt threat of harm; various forms of coercion, persuasion, and control may satisfy the requirement. Accordingly, the Court reversed the decisions of the district court and Court of Appeals and remanded to the district court to apply the forfeiture-by-wrongdoing exception. View "New Mexico v. Maestas" on Justia Law

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Following a jury trial, Defendant John “Jack” McDowell was convicted of first- degree murder and tampering with evidence. During trial, the prosecutor elicited testimony from the arresting detective, without objection, that Defendant had invoked his right to counsel, and that by doing so the detective was precluded from questioning Defendant. Defendant argued on appeal that he was deprived of due process when the prosecutor elicited this testimony. The New Mexico Supreme Court agreed that the prosecutor erred. The Court reviewed the prosecutor’s error in this case for fundamental error because the error was not preserved, and concluded that the error was fundamental due to the prejudicial impact of such testimony and the lack of overwhelming evidence against Defendant. Accordingly, the convictions were vacated and the matter remanded back to the district court for a new trial. View "New Mexico v. McDowell" on Justia Law

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Police Sergeant George Rascon pulled over Defendant Jennifer Martinez for failing to stop at a stop sign and, as a result, the police obtained evidence that led to Defendant’s arrest and conviction for driving while intoxicated. In a motion to suppress, Defendant argued that the video from the officer’s on board camera, or “dash-cam,” demonstrated that Defendant made a legal stop at the intersection and that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to pull her over. At an evidentiary hearing, the officer testified that Defendant went past the stop sign before coming to a complete stop, blocking the intersection. The district court viewed the dash-cam video and concluded that the officer had reasonable suspicion to conduct the traffic stop, even though the video demonstrated that the alleged traffic violation was not as blatant as described by the officer. The Court of Appeals reversed, reasoning that the officer was not credible and that the video evidence was too ambiguous to support a finding of reasonable suspicion. After its review, the New Mexico Supreme Court held the Court of Appeals misapplied the standard of review, which required the appellate court to defer to the district court’s findings of fact if supported by substantial evidence and to view the facts in the light most favorable to the prevailing party. View "New Mexico v. Martinez" on Justia Law

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This case involved three people who agreed to co-parent one minor Child: Tue Thi Tran (Mother); Clinton Demmon (Demmon), Child’s biological father and Mother’s current partner; and Robert Bennett (Bennett), who was married to Mother at the time of Child’s birth. In 2007, the parties entered into a memorandum of agreement that settled the issue of legal paternity in Demmon’s favor yet provided that all three adults were Child’s “co-parents.” The district court adopted the memorandum of agreement as a stipulated order of the court. Disputes arose between the parties, and in 2012 the district court issued a parenting order that expressly awarded joint legal custody of Child to Mother, Demmon, and Bennett. The district court also held Mother and Demmon in contempt of court for violating the vacation and visitation provisions in the memorandum of agreement. On appeal, Mother and Demmon challenged the 2012 parenting order, arguing that Bennett was not Child’s father and that the district court erred by awarding custody to a non-parent. Mother and Demmon also contended that the district court abused its discretion by holding them in contempt of court. After review, the New Mexico Supreme Court concluded the parties effectively settled the issue of paternity under the Uniform Parentage Act when they entered into the memorandum of agreement and that the district court adjudicated the issue of paternity when it issued the stipulated order adopting the agreement. Therefore, the Court held Demmon was Child’s legal father. Furthermore, the parties’ memorandum of agreement did not confer parental rights on Bennett, in addition to Child’s two legal parents. Finally, the Court vacated the contempt order. View "Tran v. Bennett" on Justia Law

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The State filed a Motion for Pretrial Detention in this case involving a charge of first-degree murder, which was denied by the district court judge after an evidentiary hearing. The State appealed to the New Mexico Supreme Court, contending that the district court judge, relying on New Mexico v. Brown, 338 P.3d 1276, “apparently determined that the charges themselves—no matter how serious the crime and how dangerous a manner in which it is committed—are never sufficient to detain.” The State also contended the district court judge abused his discretion and asked the Supreme Court to clarify that a district court judge “should neither disregard the nature or circumstances of the crime nor consider the charges to the exclusion of all other factors.” The prosecuting authority did not offer any reasons why the conditions of release were inadequate to reasonably provide for the safety of a person or the community. But because of the ambiguity in the trial court’s written Order, the Supreme Court remanded to the district court judge to clarify the Order. View "New Mexico v. Ferry" on Justia Law