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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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A court-appointed psychologist evaluated Defendant Desiree Linares and recommended that she be found incompetent to stand trial due to mental retardation. The State doubted the psychologist’s testing methodology and conclusions and requested an opportunity to conduct an independent evaluation using its own expert. The district court granted this request, but because Linares had filed a speedy-trial motion and the proceedings had been "fraught with needless and unexplained delay," the district court allowed the psychologist to attend and observe the State’s independent evaluation to ensure the issue of Linares’ mental retardation was quickly resolved. The State insisted that this was unacceptable and unlawful and declined to conduct the evaluation. Ultimately, the district court accepted the court-appointed psychologist’s recommendations and found Linares incompetent due to mental retardation. Linares was civilly committed to the New Mexico Department of Health (DOH) and the criminal proceedings against her were dismissed. In a direct appeal, the State contended that the district court abused its discretion and effectively denied it an opportunity for an "independent" evaluation by permitting the court-appointed psychologist to attend the second, independent evaluation which ultimately did not occur. The State also argued that the district court abused its discretion in concluding that Linares was incompetent to stand trial. Finding no error in the trial court record, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "New Mexico v. Linares" 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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The issue this case presented for the New Mexico Supreme Court’s review was whether a 2009 default foreclosure judgment could be collaterally attacked based on assertions that the judgment was void for lack of jurisdiction and procured by fraud. In this case, those assertions were made by Phoenix Funding, LLC, which attempted to overturn a settled foreclosure judgment entered in favor of Aurora Loan Services, LLC. The Supreme Court held that the 2009 default judgment was not void and that Phoenix’s fraud claim was procedurally barred. The Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ judgment, reinstated the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Aurora, and remanded the case to the district court with instructions to dismiss Phoenix’s fraud claim. View "Phoenix Funding, LLC v. Aurora Loan Servs., LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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Defendant Marcos Suazo became agitated while roughhousing with his friend Matthew Vigil. Suazo retrieved his shotgun and pointed it at Vigil. Vigil grabbed the shotgun and placed the barrel in his mouth. Suazo pulled the trigger, killing Vigil and severely injuring his friend Roger Gage, who was standing behind Vigil. A key contested issue in this case was whether Suazo knew the shotgun was loaded when he pulled the trigger. Among other crimes, Suazo was convicted of second-degree murder and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. He appealed his second-degree murder conviction to the Court of Appeals, contending that the district court erred by excluding the witness testimony and by modifying the uniform jury instruction for second-degree murder. The Court of Appeals certified his case to the New Mexico Supreme Court due to the significant public importance of the jury instruction issue. The Supreme Court: (1) affirmed the district court’s exclusion of the hearsay evidence because the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that Suazo’s statements, which were overheard one hour after the shooting, were neither excited utterances nor present sense impressions; and (2) the district court erred by modifying the uniform jury instruction for second-degree murder because in 1980 the Legislature amended the definition of second-degree murder to specifically require proof that the accused knew that his or her acts created a strong probability of death or great bodily harm. Because the modified instruction misstated an essential element, the Supreme Court reversed Suazo’s conviction for second-degree murder and remanded for a new trial. View "New Mexico v. Suazo" on Justia Law

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Trevor Begay pleaded no contest to a petty misdemeanor count of battery. The County Magistrate Court imposed a 182-day sentence, suspended 171 days, credited Begay with 11 days of pre-sentence confinement, and imposed supervised probation. Begay failed to comply with the terms of his probation; he neither completed a life skills class nor performed community service. The magistrate court consequently ordered Begay to appear for a hearing. When Begay failed to appear, the magistrate judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest. Had Begay complied with the terms of his probation, his original probationary sentence would have concluded on December 27, 2012. Instead, on that day, Begay was subject to an outstanding warrant. The question this case presented for the Supreme Court’s review was whether a magistrate court had jurisdiction to revoke probation when a defendant violated the terms of probation and was in bench-warrant status when the defendant’s original probationary period expired. The Court held that NMSA 1978, Section 31-20-8 (1977), does not deprive a magistrate court of jurisdiction to revoke a defendant’s probation under these circumstances. The Court reversed the contrary judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded for the execution of the sentence imposed by the magistrate court. View "New Mexico v. Begay" on Justia Law

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Laticia Lucero (Baby) died on June 9th, 2010, just 47 days after she was born to Mother and defendant Jadrian “Jay” Lucero. Baby’s autopsy revealed that she died as a result of the type of injuries one might expect after being ejected from a vehicle in a high-speed collision or falling from a third-story window and landing on one’s head. During the investigation into Baby’s death, Defendant told law enforcement that Baby was under his care on the afternoon of June 9th, and that he had found her “not breathing” when he went to check on her in her crib. Defendant was indicted on a single count of intentional child abuse resulting in Baby’s death, and a jury convicted him of intentional child abuse resulting in the death of a child less than twelve years of age under NMSA 1978, Section 30-6-1(D), (H) (2009). The district court sentenced him to life in prison. Defendant raised two issues on appeal: (1) the jury instructions improperly defined the intent element for the crime of intentional child abuse by endangerment and, therefore, resulted in fundamental error; and (2) the district court abused its discretion when it refused to hold an evidentiary hearing on Defendant’s motion for a new trial. Finding no reversible error, the New Mexico Supreme Court affirmed defendant’s conviction. View "New Mexico v. Lucero" on Justia Law

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New Mexico Rule of Evidence 11-410 NMRA stated that evidence of a nolo contendere plea made in settlement of a criminal proceedings was not admissible in civil proceedings against a defendant making such a plea. In this case, the issue presented for the New Mexico Supreme Court's consideration was whether evidence of a nolo plea was admissible in a civil case for misrepresentation where the plaintiffs sought to introduce a nineteen-year-old nolo plea of one defendant to support an argument that the defendant fraudulently failed to disclose his nolo plea during the formation of a joint business venture. The Court held that evidence of the nolo plea was inadmissible under both the express terms and the underlying purpose of Rule 11-410(A)(2), and the Court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment on that basis. The Court reversed the Court of Appeals which held to the contrary. View "Kipnis v. Jusbasche" on Justia Law

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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

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The issue presented for the Supreme Court's review giving rise to this case was a collateral of the underlying judgment. Specifically, the issue was whether it was apparent on the face of a 1948 quiet title judgment that the district court affirmatively lacked jurisdiction over certain parties because they were notified by publication. It was alleged that in the 1948 lawsuit, such notice violated the Due Process Clause, depriving the district court of jurisdiction. Only when a party’s whereabouts are not reasonably ascertainable following diligent search and inquiry can constructive notice substitute for personal notice of suit. The Supreme Court found that constructive service of process by publication satisfied due process and established the 1948 district court’s personal jurisdiction. Therefore, the district court’s 1948 quiet title judgment was not void, and, accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals which held to the contrary. View "T.H. McElvain Oil & Gas Ltd. P'ship v. Benson-Montin-Greer Drilling Corp." on Justia Law