Articles Posted in New Mexico Supreme Court

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Police officers were dispatched in response to reports of an armed subject pointing a rifle at several people from the window of a light beige or tan vehicle. After Defendant Leticia T. (Child) and children passengers were removed and detained, the officers conducted a warrantless search of the interior and trunk of the vehicle. The district court held that the warrantless search was justified by exigent circumstances. The Court of Appeals reversed the district court, ruling that the possibility of a person hiding in the trunk of a vehicle did not constitute exigency. The issue on appeal to the Supreme Court centered on the Court of Appeals' reversal. The Supreme Court conclude after a review of the district court record was that when police officers have probable cause and exigent circumstances to believe that an armed subject pointed a rifle at other individuals from a vehicle, officers may search the cab and the trunk of that same vehicle for the rifle. View "New Mexico v. Leticia T." on Justia Law

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Defendant Nieves Ortega was convicted of one count of wilful and deliberate murder. He was also convicted of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, attempted first-degree kidnapping, attempted armed robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, and conspiracy to commit first-degree kidnapping. He was ultimately sentenced to a life sentence. On direct appeal to the Supreme Court, defendant argued: he received ineffective assistance of counsel; that the district court erred in denying an important defense witness use immunity; testimony of the State’s medical expert violated Defendant’s confrontation rights; Defendant’s multiple conspiracy convictions violated double jeopardy; the jury was improperly instructed; the State violated its duty to disclose; and cumulative error. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, attempted first-degree kidnapping, and attempted armed robbery. The Court vacated Defendant’s convictions for conspiracy to commit robbery and conspiracy to commit first-degree kidnapping on double jeopardy grounds. View "New Mexico v. Ortega" on Justia Law

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Eric Schuster appealed a decision of the Taxation and Revenue Department, Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) to revoke his driver's license pursuant to the Implied Consent Act. The primary issue arising from this case was whether MVD must find that the arrest of a driver charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) was constitutional as one of the prerequisites to revoking the driver's license. Upon review, the Supreme Court answered this question in the affirmative and overruled "Glynn v. State, Taxation & Revenue Dep't," (252 P.3d 742) to the extent the Glynn court held that the constitutionality of the arrest need not be decided in DWI license revocation hearings. The secondary issues concerned: (1) the district court's jurisdiction to hear an appeal from an MVD license revocation hearing regarding the constitutionality of an arrest; and (2) whether the district court erred in affirming both MVD's revocation of Schuster's driver's license and MVD's finding that the arrest of Schuster was constitutional. The Court held that: (1) the district court's review of constitutional issues in a license revocation hearing is conducted under its appellate jurisdiction and not under its original jurisdiction; and (2) the district court did not err in affirming MVD's revocation of Schuster's driver's license because Schuster's was constitutional. View "Schuster v. State of NM Tax. & Rev. Dep't" on Justia Law

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"Speedy trial analysis under the United States Constitution requires a balancing and weighing of several factors, including the length of delay, the cause of the delay, timely assertion of the right, and prejudice to the accused." In this case, one of those factors (the cause of the delay) weighed heavily against the State based on its own dilatory and deceptive conduct in prosecuting the case. The district court dismissed the charges even though the remaining factors favor the accused only slightly. The Court of Appeals reversed, due to the lack of perceived prejudice to the accused. The Supreme Court disagreed with the appellate court's conclusion and reversed, remanding the case to the district court for a new speedy trial hearing. View "New Mexico v. Spearman" on Justia Law

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Defendant Jose Ordunez pled guilty to a 2004 fourth-offense aggravated DWI. He was incarcerated for six months and then served a lengthy probationary period. In 2007, Defendant was arrested for another DWI in violation of his 2004 probation conditions, but a probation revocation hearing was not held before the probationary term from the 2004 DWI had expired. The district court concluded that the applicable New Mexico statutes precluded revocation of Defendant's probation after his probationary term had expired and granted Defendant's motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to review the Court of Appeals opinion affirming the district court's dismissal of the case. After its review, the Supreme Court affirmed the conclusions of the district court and the Court of Appeals that Defendant's probation could not be revoked after it had expired. View "New Mexico v. Ordunez" on Justia Law

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This case presented the Supreme Court with an issue of first impression: whether the New Mexico Emancipation of Minors Act authorizes a district court to declare a minor emancipated for some rather than all enumerated purposes contained in the Act. Petitioner Jhette Diamond (Daughter), then sixteen years old, petitioned the district court in for a declaration of emancipation pursuant to the Act. Daughter left the home of her mother Adrienne Diamond (Mother) at age thirteen and had been living with several different households. Mother did not appear at the hearing or otherwise oppose the petition. Daughter, represented by counsel, told the district court that she had moved out of Mother’s home due to domestic violence and substance abuse issues. Daughter had no intention of returning to live with Mother, who maintained a relationship with the man whose violent behavior and substance abuse had contributed to Daughter's decision to leave. The district court issued a "Declaration of Emancipation of Minor" in March 2007, finding that Daughter had been living independently and managing her own financial affairs without support from Mother, determining that emancipation would be in Daughter’s best interest, and declaring Daughter "an emancipated minor in all respects, except that she shall retain the right to support from [Mother]" pursuant to the Act. Mother, represented by counsel, objected to child support to an emancipated minor. Agreeing with Mother, the Court of Appeals held that "New Mexico law does not permit a minor emancipated pursuant to [the Act] to collect child support payments," and does not permit “an emancipating court to pick and choose the purposes for which a child is emancipated." Upon review of the legislative history of the Act, the Supreme Court concluded that the Act's directive that emancipation may be declared for "one or more purposes" expressly authorized partial emancipation. Furthermore, the Court did not find "management of one's financial affairs" and entitlement to support as inherently contradictory. In response to Mother's argument that Daughter receiving public welfare benefits was not "managing her affairs" in the same manner as receiving child support is not managing one's affairs, the Court found that Mother did not offer an explanation for why the source of the support should be determinative of Daughter's ability to manage her affairs. In rendering its judgment, the district court "faithfully followed the procedural requirements of the Act and reached a result consistent with the Act's plain language." Because the Court of Appeals failed to give effect to that language, the Supreme Court reversed that court's decision. View "Diamond v. Diamond" on Justia Law

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This case concerned the scope of absolute privilege that grants immunity to litigants and their attorneys from being sued for defamation based on public statements they make about a judicial proceedings either before or after the proceeding is filed. Specifically, the issues before the Supreme Court in this case were: (1) whether pre-litigation statements made by an attorney to prospective clients in the presence of the press regarding a potential mass-tort lawsuit; and (2) whether statements made directly to the press by an attorney or party after such lawsuit was filed, are absolutely privileged, thus barring any lawsuit for defamation. The district court found in the affirmative on these issues and granted summary judgment to the defendants. The Court of Appeals reversed that decision, finding that absolute privilege did not apply to statements made before or after a complaint was filed when the statements were made before the press. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that absolute privilege indeed does apply to pre-litigation statements made by attorneys in the presence of the press if (1) the speaker is seriously and in good faith contemplating a lawsuit at the time the statement was made; (2) the statement is reasonably related to the proposed litigation; (3) the attorney has a client or identifiable prospective clients at the time the statement was made; and (4) the statement is made while the attorney is acting in the capacity of counsel or prospective counsel. View "Helena Chemical Co. v. Uribe" on Justia Law

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This case presented an issue of first impression for the Supreme Court: whether executive privilege in the context of a public records request presented a conflict with the public's right to access information concerning the "inner workings of its government." Petitioners Republican Party of New Mexico and Lyn Ott, individually and as Director of the Help America Vote Act for the Republican Party requested certain government documents. Respondents New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department, Motor Vehicle Divison, and the Custodial of Records withheld some of those documents on several grounds including executive privilege. "To protect the people's vital right to access information about the workings of government, [the Supreme Court held] that executive privilege must be confined to the constitutional limits." The Court found that the documents in question did not qualify for the privilege, and reversed the district court's judgment classifying the documents in question as "privileged." View "Republican Part of NM v. NM Taxation & Revenue Dept." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted certiorari to review a Memorandum Opinion of the Court of Appeals and to address four issues stemming from a lawsuit by LensCrafters to enforce a noncompete provision against optometrist Dennis Kehoe after a sublease contract between the two parties ended. After review of the "complex, convoluted, and contentious eleven-year dispute," the Supreme Court held that (1) the district court properly dismissed LensCrafters' breach of contract claim on summary judgment because LensCrafters terminated the parties' contract as a matter of law and, with it, the contract's noncompete provision; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Kehoe's request to supplement his pleadings shortly before trial; and (3) summary judgment dismissing Kehoe's malicious abuse of process and tortious interference with contract counterclaims was proper because Kehoe did not demonstrate genuine issues of material fact. Because we hold that the noncompete provision was not in effect during any relevant time, the Court did not address Kehoe's fourth issue, whether the provision would have been contrary to public policy. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Memorandum Opinion of the Court of Appeals in part and reversed in part. View "Lenscrafters, Inc. v. Kehoe" on Justia Law

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Bani Chatterjee and Taya King are two women who were in a committed, long-term domestic relationship when they agreed to bring a child into their relationship. King adopted a child from Russia. Chatterjee supported King and Child financially, lived in the family home, and co parented Child for a number of years before their commitment to each other foundered and they dissolved their relationship. Chatterjee never adopted Child. After they ended their relationship, King moved to Colorado and sought to prevent Chatterjee from having any contact with Child. Chatterjee filed a petition in the district court to establish parentage and determine custody and timesharing. Chatterjee alleged that she was a presumed natural parent under the former codification of the New Mexico Uniform Parentage Act, (NMSA), and was the equitable or de facto parent of Child, and as such, was entitled to relief. In response to Chatterjee’s Petition, King filed a motion to dismiss. The district court dismissed the Petition for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Chatterjee then appealed to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded to the district court. The Court of Appeals held that Chatterjee did not have standing to seek joint custody absent a showing of King’s unfitness because she is neither the biological nor the adoptive mother of Child. The Court further held that presumptions establishing a father and child relationship cannot be applied to women, and a mother and child relationship can only be established through biology or adoption. The issue before the Supreme Court was whether Chatterjee pleaded sufficient facts in her Petition to give her standing to pursue joint custody of Child under the Dissolution of Marriage Act. The Court concluded based on the facts and circumstances of this case, that the facts pleaded by Chatterjee were sufficient to confer standing on her as a natural mother because: (1) the plain language of the UPA instructs courts to apply criteria for establishing a presumption that a man is a natural parent, to women because it is practicable for a woman to hold a child out as her own by, among other things, providing full-time emotional and financial support for the child; (2) commentary by the drafters of the UPA supports application of the provisions related to determining paternity to the determination of maternity; (3) the approach in this opinion is consistent with how courts in other jurisdictions have interpreted their UPAs, which contain language similar to the New Mexico UPA; and (4) New Mexico’s public policy is to encourage the support of children, financial and otherwise, by providers willing and able to care for the child. View "Chatterjee v. King" on Justia Law