Editorial: Journal selections for NM Supreme, Appeals courts

Editorial: Journal selections for NM Supreme, Appeals courts

Journal endorsements continue with contested state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals races, several of which have two qualified candidates. For candidates’ answers to questions, go to ABQJournal.com, click on Voter Guide.

State Supreme Court: Gary Clingman

We need diverse voices on the state Supreme Court, and Gary Clingman, a Republican from Hobbs appointed to the high court earlier this year, fits that bill. Currently, he’s the only justice from outside Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

That said, a troubling incident from Clingman’s past has come to light. He was fired from the Odessa police department for “mishandling of a prisoner.” The man, who is black, told the Journal he lost teeth and suffered a broken wrist and other injuries in the incident, which involved Clingman and his partner. Clingman says he jumped in when his partner, who is now deceased, got into two separate altercations with the prisoner. He said he was fired because he was the senior officer on the scene. It’s worth noting the incident occurred nearly 40 years ago and since then Clingman has had a distinguished legal career, including 21 years as a respected judge in the 5th Judicial District. The Journal recommends voters keep Gary Clingman on the N.M. Supreme Court.

Court of Appeals, Position 1: Stephen French

Judge Stephen French, a Republican, has served on the Court of Appeals for nearly three years and authored the unanimous opinion that sent the Nehemiah Griego case back to a District Court judge for a hearing that could land him in adult prison. Griego killed his parents and three siblings five years ago and was about to be released until the Appeals Court correctly intervened and sent the case back to a judge for further proceedings.

Before he was appointed to the Court of Appeals, French served as a mediator, prosecutor, defense lawyer and civil trial attorney both in state and federal courts. He attended the California Western School of Law. His opponent is Democrat Kristina Bogardus, who is also well qualified for the position. But because French has several years’ experience on the court and has served the public well in that position, the Journal recommends voters pick Stephen French for Court of Appeals, Position 1.

Court of Appeals, Position 2: Jacqueline Medina

Jacqueline Medina, a Democrat and Taos native, worked in the criminal appeals division of the Attorney General’s Office for 17 years for the last three attorneys general. She handled more than 160 appeals and has even briefed in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. She currently reviews officer-involved shootings for the Second Judicial District Attorney’s Office. The UNM law school grad has worked in public service for more than 24 years.

This is another race that has two eminently qualified candidates. Medina is running against Republican incumbent Hank Bohnhoff, who was named to the court earlier this year. But due to her vast experience in public service, the Journal recommends voters pick Jacqueline Medina for Court of Appeals, Position 2.

Court of Appeals, Position 3: Briana Zamora

Briana Zamora, a Democrat and UNM law school graduate, has presided over more than 150 jury trials, including at least 85 felony cases. She has served as a Second Judicial District Court judge since 2012, handling adult criminal cases. Zamora was also a Metropolitan Court judge for four years.

As an attorney, she litigated criminal and civil cases in both the public and the private sector. She is running against Republican incumbent Emil Kiehne, who is also well qualified. Medina’s perspective as a criminal trial judge would be a good addition to the court. The Journal recommends voters put Briana Zamora on the Court of Appeals, Position 3.

Court of Appeals, Position 4: Daniel Jose Gallegos

Republican Daniel Gallegos is a former military prosecutor who worked at the Court of Appeals as a staff attorney for five years before being appointed to a judgeship in the court in January. Prior to that, he prosecuted crimes against children, DWI and domestic violence cases in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties. He also spent years as an active duty and reserve Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps officer. Gallegos, who graduated from Notre Dame Law School, was appointed to the Court of Appeals in January. He clearly has the edge in this race when it comes to experience. The Journal recommends voters pick Daniel Gallegos for Court of Appeals, Position 4.

Judge of the Court of Appeals, Retention: J. Miles Hanisee, yes

J. Miles Hanisee, a Republican who earned his law degree from Pepperdine University, has 24 years of legal experience and has served on the Court of Appeals since 2011. He has done a solid job on the court and has played a role in modernizing processes. The Journal joins the New Mexico Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission in recommending voters retain Hanisee on the bench.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.