Articles Posted in Election Law

by
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

by
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

by
Judge Daniel Viramontes wrote a letter dated March 10, 2016 to New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, informing her of his intent to resign as district court judge of Division 4 of the Sixth Judicial District Court, effective August 26, 2016. The Sixth Judicial District Court Nominating Committee met and submitted the names of Petitioner Edward Hand and Real Party in Interest Jarod Hofacket to Governor Martinez for her consideration. Governor Martinez appointed Hofacket by letter dated October 21, 2016, stating that his term would begin on November 4, 2016. Hofacket was to serve until the next general election (here, November 8, 2016). Either Hofacket or his successor, whoever was elected during the upcoming general election, would hold office until the expiration of the term held by Judge Viramontes, at which time he or she would be eligible for a nonpartisan retention election. Petitioners did not challenge Governor Martinez’s appointment of Hofacket. Instead, they filed a petition for writ of mandamus, injunction, and declaratory judgment asking the New Mexico Supreme Court to declare that Secretary of State Brad Winter acted arbitrarily, capriciously, and in violation of law by placing Hofacket on the November 8, 2016 general election ballot. The issue presented for the Supreme Court was thus reduced to whether the Secretary of State could place on the general election ballot the names of political party nominees to fill a vacancy created by a district court judge who resigned effective after a primary election but more than fifty-six days prior to the general election. The Court answered "yes," because under NMSA 1978, Section 1-8-8(A) (2015), the vacancy occurred for a public office that was not included in the governor’s election proclamation, and pursuant to Article VI, Sections 35 and 36 of the New Mexico Constitution, the judicial vacancy was required to be filled at the next general election, provided that the political parties file their list of nominees with the Secretary of State more than fifty-six days before the general election. View "Hand v. Winter" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law

by
There was only one judge on the Tenth Judicial District Court which had jurisdiction over the counties of Quay, DeBaca, and Harding. In 2008, Albert J. Mitchell, Jr. won a contested election for Tenth Judicial District judge against Judge Donald Schutte. Pursuant to 19 Article VI, Section 33 of the New Mexico Constitution, Judge Mitchell ran for retention in the 2014 general election. Prior to the retention election, the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission evaluated Judge Mitchell and recommended that voters retain him in the general election. Despite the Commission’s recommendation, Judge Mitchell was not retained, failing to garner at least fifty-seven percent of the votes. A district court judges nominating committee was convened to solicit and evaluate applicants to fill Judge Mitchell’s impending vacancy. Before the nominating committee could meet, Petitioner Pamela Clark unsuccessfully tried to prevent to nominating committee from considering Judge Mitchell's application by petitioning the New Mexico Supreme Court. The nominating committee ultimately submitted the names of both applicants to the governor for consideration. Governor Susana Martinez appointed Judge Mitchell to the vacancy. This case called upon the New Mexico Supreme Court to interpret the 1988 amendments to the New Mexico Constitution governing judicial selection. The question before the Court was whether Article VI, Section 33 prohibited a district judge who lost a nonpartisan retention election from being appointed to fill the resulting vacancy created by that judge’s nonretention. The Court held that the New Mexico Constitution did not prohibit a judicial nominating commission from considering and nominating, or the governor from appointing, an otherwise qualified judicial applicant to fill a vacant judicial office based on the judicial applicant’s nonretention in the immediately preceding election. "We recognize that our holding may seem counterintuitive at first glance. However, our holding is governed by our Constitution’s provisions governing judicial succession, not retention." View "Clark v. Mitchell" on Justia Law

by
In 2009, the Governor appointed District Judge Sheri Raphaelson to fill a vacancy in Division V of the First Judicial District Court created when then-District Judge Tim Garcia was appointed to the New Mexico Court of Appeals, leaving an unexpired term of office. A year later, as required by Article VI, Section 35 of the New Mexico Constitution, Judge Raphaelson successfully ran in a partisan election to remain in office as Judge Garciaís successor. On March 11, 2014, Judge Raphaelson filed a declaration of candidacy to place her name on the ballot for retention in the 2014 general election in accordance with Article VI, Section 34 of the New Mexico Constitution and NMSA 1978, Section 1-8-26 (2013). In the general election, Judge Raphaelsonís fell short of the 57 percent votes necessary to retain the office as stipulated by Article VI, Section 33(A) of the New Mexico Constitution. Days after the 2014 general election, despite her unsuccessful retention election, Judge Raphaelson publically declared her intent to remain on the bench until January 1, 2017, not January 1, 2015. Judge Raphaelson contended for the first time that her six-year term of office had begun on January 1, 2011, after her successful partisan election, and that she had mistakenly stood for retention prematurely. Upon review of this matter, the New Mexico Supreme Court held that a judge elected in a partisan election is subject to retention in the sixth year of the predecessor judge's term, and that by failing to win enough votes for retention, Judge Raphaelson lost her seat. "Any effort to remain in office beyond December 31, 2014 contravened the Constitution, justifying our writ of quo warranto." View "King v. Raphaelson" on Justia Law

by
Appellee Emily Kane ran for elective office while she was employed at the Albuquerque Fire Department (the AFD) as a captain. Article X, Section 3 of the Charter of the City of Albuquerque (1989), and the City of Albuquerque Personnel Rules and Regulations Section 311.3 (2001), prohibit city employees from holding elective office. Kane sought injunctive relief to allow her to hold elective office while retaining her employment with the AFD. She argued that the employment regulations of the City of Albuquerque (the City) violated: (1) the First and Fourth Amendments of the United States Constitution; (2) Article VII, Section 2 of the New Mexico Constitution; and (3) Section 10-7F-9 of the Hazardous Duty Officers' Employer-Employee Relations Act (the HDOA). The district court granted Kane the relief she sought, but the Supreme Court reversed. The Court found the City's employment regulations did not violate the First Amendment because they regulated conflicts of interest, and they were therefore rationally related to the legitimate government purpose of promoting administrative efficiency. In addition, the Court held these regulations did not violate Article VII, Section 2 because they constituted conditions of employment that did not add additional qualifications to elective public office. Finally, the City's employment regulations were not preempted by Section 10-7F-9 because personnel rules touched issues of local rather than general concern, and they were within the City's authority to promulgate. View "Kane v. City of Albuquerque" on Justia Law

by
Before the 2010 primary election, the Supreme Court was called upon to decide whether Appellant Dennis Montoya, a candidate for a Court of Appeals judgeship, was properly disqualified by the Secretary of State (the Secretary) from receiving public campaign funding under the New Mexico Voter Action Act (the Act). This case gave the Court its first opportunity to construe the Act, explain its previous oral ruling affirming the Secretary, and to address Appellant’s constitutional challenges to the Act as well as the civil penalty the Secretary imposed upon him. The dispute in this case centered on the provision in Section 1-19A-5(A), that "[a]n applicant candidate may contribute an amount of seed money from the applicant candidate's own funds up to" the $5000 limit. Appellant argues that his "general" contributions were intended to cover other kinds of expenses such as the costs of seeking his party's support at local preprimary convention gatherings leading up to the state preprimary convention. As such, these contributions were not intended to pay for the kinds of expenses that seed money is intended to cover and to limit. The Supreme Court concluded that when Appellant contributed more than $8000 of his own money to the campaign, while simultaneously applying for public funds, he violated the Act. Under the law, the Secretary had no choice but to disqualify him from public financing, and she did so. Furthermore, the Court concluded Appellant "misplaced" his reliance on "a number of federal cases to suggest that a civil penalty cannot be imposed on him for voluntarily exercising his First Amendment right to free speech." The Court affirmed the district court's judgment in this case. View "Montoya v. Herrera" on Justia Law

by
This issue before the Supreme Court in this case was the appointment of the New Mexico House of Representatives following the 2010 federal census. It was undisputed that the House was unconstitutionally apportioned. The Legislature then passed House Bill 39 to reapportion the House during a 2011 Special Session. The Governor vetoed the bill. Because lawmakers failed to create constitutionally-acceptable districts, the burden fell on the courts to draw a reapportionment map for the House. The Court appointed a retired district judge to oversee the judiciary's process. Petitioners filed petitions for a writ of superintending control to ask the Supreme Court to take jurisdiction over the case, and to reverse the district court to adopt an alternative plan or remand the case with instructions regarding the legal standard that should be applied. After reading the parties' briefs and listening to oral argument, the Court entered an order articulating the legal principles that should govern redistricting litigation in New Mexico and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. View "Maestas v. Hall" on Justia Law