Articles Posted in Government & Administrative 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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The New Mexico Supreme Court concluded that the minor children of a parent whom they allege was wrongfully shot and killed by a law enforcement officer could: (1) sue for loss of consortium damages under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act (TCA); and (2) bring their lawsuit even if the parent’s estate did not sue for wrongful death damages. The Court held Section 41-4-12 of the TCA waived a law enforcement officer’s sovereign immunity from liability for personal injury and bodily injury damages resulting from battery, and loss of consortium damages may be characterized as either personal or bodily injury damages. Second, loss of consortium damages result from the wrongful injury or death of someone who was in a sufficiently close relationship to the loss of consortium claimant, and such damages belong to the loss of consortium claimant and not to the injured person or the decedent’s estate. View "Thompson v. City of Albuquerque" 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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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

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In this appeal, the issue presented for the New Mexico Supreme Court's review centered on the scope of the New Mexico State Engineer’s regulatory authority over use of surface water in New Mexico when it has been diverted from the Animas River into an acequia in Colorado and accessed from that ditch by Petitioners and others in New Mexico. After review, the Court rejected petitioners’ arguments that the State Engineer lacked statutory authority over waters initially diverted outside of New Mexico and had no jurisdiction to enjoin petitioners from irrigating an area of farmland not subject to an existing adjudicated water right or a permit from the State Engineer. The Court held that the State Engineer was authorized by New Mexico law to require a permit for new, expanded, or modified use of this water and to enjoin any unlawful diversion. View "State Engineer v. Diamond K Bar Ranch, LLC" on Justia Law

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Mary Herrera, when acting as the Secretary of State, terminated the employment of two employees of the Secretary of State’s office, James Flores and Manny Vildasol. In separate actions, Flores and Vildasol each asserted a Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) claim against Herrera in her individual capacity. Herrera left office; nevertheless, Flores and Vildasol sought to proceed with their individual-capacity WPA claims against her. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review was whether the WPA would allow for a state employee to assert a claim against a state officer in that officer's individual capacity. The Court of Appeals concluded that the WPA allowed the employees to continue their suit, but the Supreme Court disagreed and reversed the Court of Appeals. On remand, the Supreme Court instructed the courts to dismiss Flores’s individual-capacity claim against Herrera and, with respect to Flores’s official-capacity claim against Herrera, to enter a substitution order. InVildasol’s case, the Court instructed the trial court to dismiss Vildasol’s individual-capacity claim against Herrera and to proceed with Vildasol’s claim against the Secretary of State’s office. View "Flores v. Herrera" on Justia Law

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Petitioners, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 18, AFL-CIO, Locals 1461, 2260 and 2499 (AFSCME), brought a declaratory-judgment action challenging the grandfather status of Respondent’s Board of County Commissioners of Bernalillo County (County Commission), local labor relations board. Both the trial and appellate courts rejected AFSCME’s claims. In its review, the New Mexico Supreme Court focused on the statutory jurisdictional prerequisites of New Mexico’s Declaratory Judgment Act, NMSA 1978, §§ 44-6-1 to -15 (1975), and held that AFSCME’s claims were not ripe, and AFSCME failed to assert an injury-in-fact. Accordingly, the district court lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate AFSCME’s declaratory-judgment action. The case was remanded to the district court to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals also lacked jurisdiction, and its opinion was vacated. View "AFSCME v. Bd. of Cty. Comm'rs of Bernalillo Cty." on Justia Law

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Phillip Ramirez, a member of the New Mexico Army National Guard, was employed by the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD). In July 2005, Ramirez was ordered to federal active duty and deployed to Iraq. After Ramirez returned to work in New Mexico, CYFD terminated his employment. Ramirez sued CYFD, asserting a Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) claim. A jury found in his favor and awarded Ramirez monetary damages. The Court of Appeals reversed the damages award, concluding that CYFD as an arm of the State was immune to Ramirez’s USERRA claim. After review of that decision, the New Mexico Supreme Court disagreed: by enacting NMSA 1978, Section 20-4-7.1(B) (2004), the Legislature specifically extended “[t]he rights, benefits and protections” of USERRA to members of the New Mexico National Guard who were ordered to federal or state active duty for a period of thirty or more consecutive days. In so doing, the Legislature consented to suits brought against state employers who violate the protections guaranteed by USERRA. View "Ramirez v. CYFD" on Justia Law

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In this opinion the New Mexico Supreme Court addressed two orders issued by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) that affected the revenues of local telephone networks including rural telephone companies that made up the New Mexico Exchange Carrier Group. The first was an annual order that had to be issued by the PRC on or before October 1 each year that adopted a Surcharge Rate for the succeeding year. On September 17, 2014, the PRC issued the Surcharge Rate Order, which adopted a 3% Surcharge Rate for calendar year 2015. The second was a Rule Order that amended the 2005 rules which set forth the procedures for administering and implementing the Fund. The Rule Order was issued on November 26, 2014; the rule changes became effective on January 1, 2015. After review of both orders, the Supreme Court reversed, persuaded that the both Orders were arbitrary, not supported by substantial evidence, and clear violations of its own rules. The Court reversed the PRC and remanded for further proceedings. View "N.M. Exch. Carrier Grp. v. N.M. Pub. Regulation Comm'n" on Justia Law