Justia New Mexico Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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Anastacia Morper sought preprimary designation as a candidate for the office of United States Representative from New Mexico’s Third Congressional District at the 2020 Republican Party Pre-Primary Convention. The Secretary of State invalidated forty-four of Morper’s nominating petitions because those petitions omitted the heading “2020 PRIMARY NOMINATING PETITION,” which the Secretary deemed to be critical information required by law. By extension, the Secretary invalidated the signatures on those forty-four nominating petitions. In doing so, the Secretary invalidated over seven hundred signatures, leaving only forty-three signatures on the five nominating petitions the Secretary did not invalidate. The Secretary informed Morper that she had not received the “minimum number of signatures required” to be “qualified as a candidate” for the preprimary convention. Morper appealed the Secretary’s decision to the district court. The district court upheld the Secretary’s decision concluding that “the Secretary of State has the right to reject . . . nominating petitions that were not on the form prescribed by law.” The Supreme Court reversed. "We appreciate that the reviewing official at the Secretary’s office may have been required to give the nominating petitions that Morper filed more than a cursory glance to ascertain that the petitions were in the form that Section 1-8-30(C) prescribes, contained the information that Section 1-1-26(A) requires, and were identical to the Secretary’s Form except for the omitted heading. However, this additional attention does not justify the Secretary’s argument that allowing her to invalidate any form that omitted the heading that she approved—regardless of whether the remainder of the form is identical to the Secretary’s Form—protects the integrity and fairness of the elective franchise." View "Morper v. Oliver" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Andrew Jones appealed the grant of summary judgment to the Department of Public Safety (DPS), dismissing Jones’s Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) enforcement action. Jones argued the district court misconstrued Section 14-2-1(A)(4) and incorrectly allowed DPS to withhold requested public records solely because the records related to an ongoing criminal investigation. Jones further argued the Court of Appeals was incorrect to hold that he acquiesced to the district court’s interpretation of Section 14-2-1(A)(4), was incorrect to hold that his lawsuit was moot, and wrongly dismissed his appeal. After review, the New Mexico Supreme Court concluded Jones was correct. The Court of Appeals was reversed, and the district court's grant of summary judgment to DPS was too, concluding that the district court’s interpretation of Section 14-2-1(A)(4) was overbroad and contrary to the plain language of the statute. "That misinterpretation also led the district court to incorrectly deny summary judgment to Jones at an earlier point in the case. Accordingly, we reverse that judgment as well." View "Jones v. N.M. Dep't of Public Safety" on Justia Law

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The district court suppressed records that police officers obtained from Defendant Jaycob Price’s cell phone provider pursuant to a search warrant. Under the authority of the search warrant, the officers obtained: (1) subscriber information consisting of Defendant’s name, date of birth, social security number, and address; (2) cell-site location information (CSLI); and (3) a list of calls and text messages to and from Defendant’s cell phone. The district court ruled that the affidavit for the search warrant established probable cause to obtain Defendant’s subscriber information but failed to establish probable cause for the CSLI and call/text records, and ordered suppression of the CSLI and call/text records. The State appealed. The New Mexico Supreme Court held the district court correctly concluded that the Affidavit as a whole, together with reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom, provided the issuing judge with a substantial basis for determining that there was probable cause to believe that Defendant’s subscriber information contained evidence of a crime. The Court held the district court erred in ruling that there was no probable cause to obtain Defendant’s CSLI and call/text records. The Court therefore affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's order partially granting Defendant’s motion to suppress the cell phone records. The matter was remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "New Mexico v. Price" on Justia Law

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Cases consolidated for the New Mexico Supreme Court's review shared a common issue and an opportunity to define “uniformed law enforcement officer” and “appropriately marked law enforcement vehicle” under NMSA 1978, Section 30-22-1.1(A) (2003), which defined the crime of aggravated fleeing from a law enforcement officer. The Court granted certiorari (1) in New Mexico v. Montano, 423 P.3d 1 (2018), to review the reasoning of Montano and consider whether the law enforcement officer was “uniformed” under Section 30-22-1.1(A); and (2) in New Mexico v. Martinez, A-1-CA-35111, mem. op. (May 14, 2018) (nonprecedential), to review the Montano reasoning and consider whether the law enforcement officers in Martinez and Montano were each in an “appropriately marked law enforcement vehicle” under Section 30-22-1.1(A). The Court affirmed the Court of Appeals' determination of what constituted a “uniformed law enforcement officer” and rejected its determination of what constituted an “appropriately marked law enforcement vehicle.” Therefore, the Court concluded the officer in Montano was not a “uniformed law enforcement officer” and that neither the officer in Montano nor the officer in Martinez was in an “appropriately marked law enforcement vehicle.” View "New Mexico v. Montano" on Justia Law

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Officers from the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) approached Defendant Ronald Widmer in a Walgreens parking lot in the late evening. Defendant, accompanied by a woman, was trying to start a motor scooter. APD had received an anonymous tip concerning two persons and a scooter with an ignition that “appeared to be tampered with.” The officers suspected that the scooter was stolen. After briefly speaking with Defendant and the woman, officers ran Defendant’s personal identification information and the scooter’s vehicle identification number (VIN) through the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) to check for outstanding warrants and any stolen vehicle reports. NCIC did not return a stolen vehicle report but did report Defendant’s outstanding felony warrants for trafficking drugs. Officers placed Defendant in handcuffs while they awaited confirmation that the warrants were valid. While Defendant was in custody, but before he was advised of his Miranda rights, an officer asked him, “Is there anything on your person that I should know about?” Defendant responded, “I have meth.” Officers collected a white powder from inside a pill container hanging from Defendant’s belt loop and placed it in a plastic evidence bag. After officers recovered the physical evidence, Defendant muttered, “Well, I’m gonna have another charge now.” The white powder recovered from Defendant’s belt loop tested positive for methamphetamine. As a result, Defendant was charged with felony possession of a controlled substance. At issue before the New Mexico Supreme Court was whether the officer's question to Defendant was sufficiently related to protecting officer safety to qualify for the public safety exception to the admissibility requirements of Miranda, announced in New York v. Quarles, 467 U.S. 649 (1984). The Court of Appeals determined that the question in this case did not qualify for the Quarles public safety exception, reversed Defendant's conviction for possession of methamphetamine, and remanded for a new trial. The Supreme Court disagreed, finding the Quarles public safety exception applied in this case because of the need to determine whether Defendant was armed or carrying potentially harmful drug paraphernalia before officers performed a pat-down search. The Court of Appeals was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "New Mexico v. Widmer" on Justia Law

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After retrial, defendant Matthew Sloan appealed his convictions for burglary and felony murder. At the second trial, the State presented evidence that defendant, armed with a rifle and accompanied by two other men, broke into the victim’s house to retrieve drugs or money from the victim and that defendant shot and killed the victim during the burglary. On appeal, defendant argued: (1) the district court denied him his right to be present and to confront witnesses against him by failing to determine whether he made a valid waiver of his right to be present at three pretrial hearings; (2) he received ineffective assistance from his trial counsel; and (3) the district court committed reversible error by declining to instruct the jury on voluntary manslaughter as a lesser included offense. Finding no reversible error, the New Mexico Supreme Court affirmed defendant's convictions. View "New Mexico v. Sloan" on Justia Law

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The two issues presented by this case came to the New Mexico Supreme Court from a district court’s decision to grant Defendant Jesse Lente’s habeas petition. The first concerned Lente’s indictment, charging him with perpetrating various forms of sexual abuse on a regular basis against M.C., his stepdaughter (a so-called "resident child molester" case). The district court, relying on Valentine v. Konteh, 395 F.3d 626 (6th Cir. 2005), and New Mexico v. Dominguez, 178 P.3d 834, concluded that Lente’s indictment included “carbon copy” charges - charges that were truly identical, and not distinguishable by time or date or by specification that each charge was predicated on different acts - that impermissibly subjected him to double jeopardy. The second issue concerned the district court’s determination that M.C.’s testimony was too generic and insufficient to support Lente’s multiple convictions. Her testimony, the district court concluded, could support only one conviction for each type of sex-abuse crime Lente perpetrated and, therefore, Lente’s multiple convictions violated double jeopardy. The Supreme Court disagreed as to both issues, finding the district court wrongly interpreted the principles articulated in Valentine and Dominguez and erred in determining that Lente’s indictment included carbon copy charges that produced a double jeopardy violation. The Court took the opportunity of this case to clarify the principles courts must utilize when evaluating the sufficiency of the evidence presented in resident child molester cases. View "New Mexico v. Lente" on Justia Law

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GandyDancer, LLC, and Rock House CGM, LLC, were business competitors, and both provided railway construction and repair services to BNSF Railway Company. BNSF awarded contracts to Rock House to provide goods and services in New Mexico. GandyDancer filed a complaint with the New Mexico Construction Industries Division (CID) in 2015 that alleged Rock House violated the Construction Industries Licensing Act (CILA), by performing unlicensed construction work in New Mexico. GandyDancer thereafter filed a complaint in district court against Rock House, alleging theories of competitive injury, and including a claim that Rock House engaged in unfair methods of competition to obtain contracts with BNSF contrary to the UPA. GandyDancer alleged Rock House’s acts amounted to an “unfair or deceptive trade practice” under Section 57-12-2(D) of the New Mexico Unfair Practices Act (UPA). The district court certified for interlocutory review whether the UPA supported supports a cause of action for competitive injury. The Court of Appeals accepted interlocutory review and held that a business may sue for competitive injury based on a plain reading of the UPA. The New Mexico Supreme Court reversed, because the Legislature excluded competitive injury from the causes of action permitted under that statute. Furthermore, the Court observed that Gandydancer relied upon dicta in Page & Wirtz Construction Co. v. Soloman, 794 P.2d 349. Therefore, the Court formally disavowed reliance on Page & Wirtz or prior New Mexico case law that conflicted with its opinion here. View "GandyDancer, LLC v. Rock House CGM, LLC" on Justia Law

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Following the death of Patricia Lewis (Worker), her widower Michael Lewis (Petitioner) was awarded death benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act. The Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) based the award on the finding that Worker, while employed with Albuquerque Public Schools (Employer), contracted allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) which proximately resulted in Worker’s death. Employer appealed the award to the Court of Appeals. Pertinent here, the appellate court concluded: (1) the WCJ correctly rejected Employer’s argument that Petitioner’s claim for death benefits was time-barred; and (2) he WCJ erred in excluding from evidence certain medical testimony and records which Employer contended related to Worker’s cause of death. The Court of Appeals therefore remanded the case for retrial on whether Worker’s ABPA “‘proximately result[ed]’” in her death. On the first issue, the New Mexico Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals that Petitioner’s claim for death benefits was not time-barred, and affirmed. On the second issue concerning the WCJ’s exclusion of medical testimony and evidence on Worker’s cause of death, the Supreme Court held the Court of Appeals erred in its interpretation of Section 52-1-51(C), but agreed based on the Supreme Court's own interpretation of Section 52-1-51(C) that the case had to be remanded for further proceedings. In all other respects, the opinion of the Court of Appeals was affirmed. View "Lewis v. Albuquerque Public Schools" on Justia Law

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The New Mexico Supreme Court addressed the enforceability of a guilty plea, particularly because the plea did not expressly, affirmatively state on the record, the accused plead guilty. The Court of Appeals concluded that, where the words, "I plead guilty," are not spoken, the plea is not enforceable no matter the circumstances of the plea proceeding, the overall context of the plea colloquy, or the clarity with which a defendant otherwise manifested an intent to plead guilty. The Supreme Court found this was incorrect. "Whether a plea is knowing and voluntary must be assessed from the totality of the circumstances. No magic words are either required or adequate to resolve that inquiry." View "New Mexico v. Yancey" on Justia Law