Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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Plaintiff Natalie Garcia (née Watkins), sued her former employer, Defendant Hatch Valley Public Schools (HVPS), for employment discrimination under the New Mexico Human Rights Act (NMHRA). Plaintiff alleged that HVPS terminated her employment as a school bus driver based on her national origin, which she described as “German” and “NOT Hispanic.” HVPS successfully moved for summary judgment in the district court, and the Court of Appeals reversed, focusing on Plaintiff’s “primary contention” that HVPS had discriminated against her and terminated her employment because she was not Hispanic. The New Mexico Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals, holding that summary judgment in HVPS' favor was appropriate because Plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination and failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact about whether HVPS’ asserted reason for terminating her employment was pretextual. In so holding, the Court also concluded: (1) the Court of Appeals properly focused on Plaintiff’s contention that she was not Hispanic in analyzing her discrimination claim; (2) Plaintiff could claim discrimination under the NMHRA as a non-Hispanic; and (3) the plain language of the NMHRA did not place a heightened evidentiary burden on a plaintiff in a "reverse" discrimination case. View "Garcia v. Hatch Valley Pub. Schs." on Justia Law

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This case arose out of a dispute between insureds, Nancy Vigil and her stepson Martin Vigil, and their insurance company, Progressive Casualty Insurance Company, as to whether the Vigils’ policy was in effect at the time of a November 4, 2002, car accident. The parties’ dispute has been the subject of two jury trials and two appeals to the Court of Appeals. The New Mexico Supreme Court limited its review to the propriety of two evidentiary rulings that the district court made prior to the second trial. The Court of Appeals held that the district court erred by excluding evidence at the second trial of: (1) a previous judge’s summary judgment ruling that the Vigils lacked coverage on the date of the accident, a ruling that had been reversed in “Progressive I;” and (2) Progressive’s payment of $200,000 under the Vigils’ policy to settle third-party claims while this litigation was pending. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and held the district court acted within its discretion to exclude the evidence under Rule 11-403 19 NMRA, which permitted the district court to “exclude relevant evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of one or more of the following: unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence.” The case was remanded back to the Court of Appeals to address the remaining issues that Progressive raised on appeal. View "Progressive Cas. Co. v. Vigil" 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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Petitioner Sarah Cahn invoked the due process exception to the New Mexico Medical Malpractice Act (MMA), but did not file her late-accruing medical malpractice claim against Respondent John Berryman, M.D. within twelve months. Twenty-one months elapsed between the accrual date of Cahn’s claim against Dr. Berryman and the date she filed suit against him. Thus, her claim was barred by Section 41-5-13 of the Act. By this opinion, the New Mexico Supreme Court clarified the contours of the due process exception, and held that plaintiffs with late-accruing medical malpractice claims, i.e., claims accruing in the last twelve months of the three-year repose period, shall have twelve months from the time of accrual to commence suit. View "Cahn v. Berryman" on Justia Law

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The New Mexico Supreme Court consolidated two separate appeals of a final order of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) that granted a taxicab certificate to Q Cab, LLC for new taxicab service in Albuquerque. Two preexisting taxicab companies, Albuquerque Cab Company (Albuquerque Cab) and Yellow-Checker Cab Company (Yellow Cab) wanted the New Mexico Supreme Court to interpret the Motor Carrier Act, NMSA 1978, section 65-2A-1 to -41 (2003, as amended through 2017), because the Act had been recently amended, creating separate designations for “municipal” and “general” taxicab services, and added a definition of fitness which a candidate taxicab company must show, and the PRC must find, before an applicant may operate. The two preexisting companies sought a declaration with respect to their ability to protest new taxicab applications. The PRC determined Q Cab was fit to operate. The Supreme Court, after review, determined Albuquerque Cab and Yellow Cab were not statutorily protected from competing applicants; Albuquerque Cab and Yellow Cab both failed to demonstrate their respective businesses would be impaired; and that the PRC’s determination that Q Cab was fit to operated was supported by substantial evidence and was within the agency’s discretion. The Supreme Court affirmed the PRC’s final order. View "Albuquerque Cab Company, Inc. v. New Mexico Public Regulation Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Petitioner League of Women Voters of New Mexico sought a writ of mandamus directing Respondent Advisory Committee to the New Mexico Compilation Commission, to effectuate the compilation of three constitutional amendments to the so-called “unamendable section” of the New Mexico Constitution. Article VII, Sections 1 and 3 of the New Mexico Constitution set forth the elective franchise; the two provisions work in tandem to establish and guarantee the right to vote. Section 1, among other things, identifies who is qualified to vote; and Section 3 protects the right from being “restricted, abridged or impaired on account of religion, race, language or color, or inability to speak, read or write the English or Spanish 9 languages . . . .” To protect the elective franchise even further, the framers declared in two separate constitutional provisions that Article VII, Sections 1 and 3 “shall never be 12 amended except upon a vote of the people of this state in an election at which at least three-fourths of the electors voting in the whole state . . . shall vote for such amendment.” The proposed amendments to Article VII, Section 1 were submitted to the electorate in 2008, 2010, and 2014, and each received more than a majority, but less than a three-fourths super-majority, of the vote. The Compilation Commission did not compile the amendments into the Constitution. Petitioner asked the New Mexico Supreme Court to clarify that under a separate constitutional provision, the 2008, 2010, and 2014 amendments required the approval of only a simple majority of the voters. Respondent took no position on the merits of the question presented, but asked that the Court deny the petition on the grounds that Respondent was not a proper party. After full briefing by the parties and by numerous amici curiae and after hearing oral arguments, the Supreme Court granted the petition and issued a writ of mandamus as requested by Petitioner. View "New Mexico ex rel. League of Women Voters v. Advisory Comm. to the N.M. Compilation Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Edward McElveny (McElveny) died intestate in 1991. In April 2013, McElveny’s grandson, Michael Phillips, filed an application with the Santa Fe County Probate Court (Probate Court) to be informally appointed personal representative (PR) of McElveny’s estate. In his application, Phillips noted that the Department of Taxation and Revenue had custody of approximately $70,000 (the Property) that belonged to McElveny and which the Department held as unclaimed property. Phillips asked the Probate Court to order the Department to release the Property to him as PR. The Probate Court granted Phillips’ request, appointed him PR, and ordered the Department to release the Property to him. Phillips then filed an unclaimed property claim with the Department. Phillips left the claim form blank and attached to the blank claim form a copy of the Probate Court’s order. In June 2013, the Department wrote to Phillips, acknowledged receipt of his claim, but informed Phillips that it was “incomplete.” Phillips responded by letter, protested that he had submitted all documentation the Department required to process and approve his claim. The Department did not reply and did not release the Property. In August 2013, the Probate Court transferred the case to the First Judicial District Court. Phillips filed a motion with the district court asking it to enforce the Probate Court’s order and to issue sanctions against the Department. The Department moved to dismiss the proceedings and argued that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Phillips failed to exhaust administrative remedies. Phillips responded and claimed that the exhaustion doctrine was inapplicable because he was “not suing the Department, i.e.[,] not attempting to obtain subject matter jurisdiction over the Department for the purpose of stating a claim.” The New Mexico Supreme Court held that the administrative claim filing provisions of the Uniform Unclaimed Property Act (UPA)were exclusive and mandatory and that individuals wishing to procure unclaimed property must exhaust the administrative remedies afforded them by the Act. Consequently, estate representatives like Phillips cannot circumvent the UPA’s claim filing provisions by invoking provisions of the Uniform Probate Code 11 (UPC). Although Phillips did not exhaust administrative remedies under the UPA, it the Court determined it was unnecessary to remand for further administrative proceedings, and ordered the Department to release to Phillips the unclaimed property in its custody that belonged to the estate. View "In re Estate of McElveny" on Justia Law

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Petitioners who pursue the recall of a local school board member under the Recall Act are entitled to the procedural protections of the New Mexico statute prohibiting strategic litigation against public participation (Anti-SLAPP statute). This dispute arose out of a malicious abuse of process claim made by Taos school board member Arsenio Cordova (Cordova) against eighteen members of an unincorporated citizens’ association (collectively, Petitioners) following their efforts to remove Cordova from office under the Local School Board Member Recall Act (Recall Act). The New Mexico Supreme Court concluded that petitioners were entitled to immunity under the Noerr-Pennington doctrine when they exercise their right to petition unless the petitioners: (1) lacked sufficient factual or legal support; and (2) had a subjective illegitimate motive for exercising their right to petition. View "Cordova v. Cline" on Justia Law

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Kimberly Montano, a New Mexico resident, sought bariatric surgery for her obesity in early 2004. At that time Eldo Frezza, M.D. was the only doctor from whom Montano could receive that surgery and still be covered by her insurer. Montano believed that she needed the procedure and that she could not afford it without medical insurance coverage. Dr. Frezza was employed as a bariatric surgeon and professor and served as chief of bariatric surgery at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock, Texas. The issue this case ultimately presented for the New mexico Supreme Court’s review was whether a New Mexico resident who had been injured by the negligence of a state- employed Texas surgeon name that surgeon as a defendant in a New Mexico lawsuit when Texas sovereign immunity laws would require that the lawsuit be dismissed. The Court initially presumed that comity should be extended because cooperation and respect between states was important. “However, this presumption is overcome and a New Mexico court need not fully extend comity if the sister state’s law offends New Mexico public policy” In this case, the New Mexico Court applied the Texas provision requiring that the case against the surgeon be dismissed because do View "Montano v. Frezza" on Justia Law

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Petitioner and Albuquerque resident David Crum was registered to vote in New Mexico as a qualified voter who declined to designate or state his political party affiliation (DTS). He sought to vote during the 2014 primary election by selecting either a Democratic or a Republican ballot without having to amend his voter registration. Crum was not permitted to vote during the June 3, 2014 primary election because he was not registered as either a Democrat or a Republican1 on or before May 6, 2014. Crum contended that the Free and Open Clause of Article II, Section 8 of the New Mexico Constitution entitled him to vote during primary elections without registering with a major political party because he was a qualified voter under Article VII, Section 1. The Supreme Court disagreed: “[a]lthough the Free and Open Clause is intended to promote voter participation during elections, the Legislature has the constitutional power to enact laws that ‘secure the secrecy of the ballot and the purity of elections and guard against the abuse of [the] elective franchise.’” The Supreme Court therefore affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Crum’s complaint for failing to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. View "Crum v. Duran" on Justia Law