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How Does The New Mexico Supreme Court Work?

New Mexico Supreme Court is the highest court in New Mexico, with its authority established by Article VI of the New Mexico Constitution. This court hears appeals that are not within the jurisdiction of the New Mexico Court of appeals. The Supreme Court has discretionary appellate jurisdiction over writs of certiorari to review judgments of the state Court of Appeals. It also exercises mandatory jurisdiction over the following;

  • Cases of a life sentence and death penalty appeals from trial courts
  • Public Regulation Commission appeals
  • Appeals concerning election disputes and removal of public officials
  • Petitions of a writ of habeas corpus
  • Cases relating to the bar and judiciary

The Supreme Court also has supervisory control over lower courts. It supervises judicial practice and disciplines professional misconduct. The court oversees the admission and management of judges and attorneys by designating and implementing requirements for continuing legal education throughout their active practice.

The Supreme Court is a Court of 5 justices, each serving 8-year terms. The seats on the Supreme Court are named after the first justices who held them: the Carton Seat, the Hanna Seat, the Parker Seat, the Roberts Seat, and the Simms Seat. In deciding over appealed cases, the justices hear oral arguments of the attorneys and examine records created during the trials. These oral arguments are recorded and posted within 24 hours to the state’s Judicial Branch website for public disclosure. The Justices write their opinions when deciding a case; these opinions are then filed and published by the Court Clerk.

Justices of the New Mexico Supreme Court are selected via assisted appointment by the Judicial Nominating Commission or partisan elections. The nominees must be at least 35 years old; must be residents of the state for at least 3-years, and must have actively practiced law in the state for at least ten years. The appellate judges’ nominating Commission constitutes the following individuals;

  • The chief justice of the Supreme Court or the chief justice’s delegate from the supreme court;
  • Two judges appointed by the chief judge of the court of appeals;
  • The governor;
  • Four members from the state bar association
  • Four individuals (including two licensed attorney and two regular citizens of the State) appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives and the president pro tempore of the senate;
  • The Dean of the University of New Mexico school of law serving as the Chairman of the Commission (can only vote when there is a tie)

The Commission examines all candidates based on the qualifications required according to the constitution. After the interviews and comprehensive examination, the Commission recommends qualified nominees for appointment to the state governor. By law, the governor must decide within 30 days. Suppose the governor cannot make an appointment within the prescribed time. In that case, the Chief Justice will be required to complete the selection from the judicial nominating Commission’s list of qualified candidates.

After the judges have been appointed, they serve until the next general elections, where they are required to run in the next statewide partisan polls and must be chosen for their first term. On completion of their term in office, the justice may stand for retention or replacement. Generally, to be retained, they must file a declaration of candidacy, pass the mandatory review by the judicial standards committee, and receive a minimum of 57% of the votes. If a Justice is not retained, the position must be vacated the following January 1. The vacant position is filled by the appointment process until the next statewide elections. Every two years, the supreme court justices choose the Chief Justice among themselves by majority vote.

According to Article VI and Section 19 of the New Mexico constitution, Justices of the Supreme Court are not permitted by law to hold any other positions in the state except judicial offices. Further, the supreme court may remove, suspend, or retire a judge based on the judicial standards commission’s recommendation. A judge may also be removed by impeachment or conviction.

According to the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act(IPRA), every individual has the right to examine public court records generated by the New Mexico Supreme Court. These records are maintained by the Supreme Court Clerk, who serves as the official custodian of records. Inquirers may submit an IPRA request or contact the Court Clerk directly via mail, e-mail, or phone. Requesters must have the case name and docket number to facilitate the request. Below are the address and contact details of the New Mexico Supreme Court:

New Mexico Supreme Court

237 Don Gaspar Avenue, Room 104

Santa Fe, NM 87501

Phone: (505) 827–4860

Fax: (505) 827–4837

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  • And More!

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