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Monday, May 23, 2011

Christy French Guest Blog: We Back Fairness for Judge Murphy

ChristyFrench100 This is a guest blog by Christy French, Chair, Doña Ana County Democratic Party.

As fellow citizens and neighbors in Doña Ana County, we find it necessary to speak out publicly in defense of Judge Mike Murphy. We believe Judge Murphy, a distinguished member of the judiciary, is an innocent man, unjustly accused and, most regrettably, tried and convicted on blogs and in newspapers throughout our state. Make no mistake – this is not an issue of corruption or of a pay-to-play scheme. Rather, this is a political witch hunt being perpetrated by a vindictive former District Attorney who rather than address the challenges facing New Mexico, has appointed herself as the “Prosecutor in Chief” and has enlisted to her side a former candidate for Attorney General who sees this as an opportunity to position himself for some future elective office. In the process, this blatantly political misuse of power is being taken strictly to try and remove an elected Democratic judge from the bench in order to put an appointed Republican on the bench in his stead. 

For the sake of educating the public and not misleading them as to the legal process in place, we wish to point out the following: Judges are, in fact, appointed by the governor. But we have a system of review in place in New Mexico which limits the governor from being given carte blanche in his or her appointments, and includes a process in which proposed appointees must meet high standards. The governor can only appoint candidates that have first passed through a rigorous vetting system run by the Judicial Nominating Commission. That commission is made up equally of Democrats and Republicans, lawyers and lay people. The members of the commission must review an exhaustive questionnaire, letters of recommendation from the community, and conduct  interviews with the candidates. Only those lawyers deemed to be fully qualified to serve on the bench are then sent as recommendations to the governor for appointment. Even after appointment, a judge must face the voters and run for his position in the next general election. Citizens still get a say as to whether or not they believe any sitting judge is qualified to serve on the bench.

Judge Murphy went through this bipartisan nominating commission process twice, was found qualified both times, and was ultimately appointed his second time around. Prior to his appointment, as a private attorney, he was a board-certified specialist in the area of domestic relations. Even those attorneys who have had an adversarial relationship with him in the courtroom, and opposed him numerous times on many cases, have stated that he was a fair and honest lawyer, a fierce advocate for his clients, and a distinguished attorney. He ran unopposed in his election.

Governor Martinez and her so-called “special prosecutor” want the public to believe that Judge Murphy not only somehow bought his way through the Judicial Nominating Commission (twice), but then also bought his way onto the bench. Even though there is not one shred of evidence to back up these claims, they continue to believe that if they say it enough times, the public will believe it is true. There is an old lawyer adage that a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich. The public should be aware that a grand jury does not sit in judgment, but is presented only one side of a case – the prosecutor’s side. No evidence is given by the defense; in fact, a defendant’s attorney is not even allowed to be present to represent his client. It should be no surprise that they were able to indict Judge Murphy.

Having gotten their indictment, the current prosecuting cast has not been content to allow the legal system to play out in a court of law, in an open arena where evidence from both sides will be presented and heard, where the public can see and hear the evidence, or lack thereof. Rather they want to publicly arrest Judge Murphy, and try him through carefully placed press-releases. Judge Murphy has pled not guilty, hired an attorney, and is gearing up to fight these charges through a legitimate legal process. That is not enough for the Governor and Matt Chandler, who are abusing their power and have shown themselves to be unable to resist the temptation to throw their self-perceived political muscle around. They want the public to believe that Judge Murphy is a “flight risk” or worse, that he is a danger to himself and the public. These ludicrous accusations have thus far gone unchallenged in the press. We are demanding that fairness, reasonableness, and restraint be applied while this case moves forward.

The Democratic Party of Doña Ana County stands with Judge Murphy. We are confident that justice will prevail. We will continue to challenge the biased actions of Governor Martinez and Mr. Chandler. We will push back against their attempts to publicly humiliate Judge Murphy, their blatant and unfounded assaults on his character and on his reputation, and their willingness to intimidate and bankrupt him in furtherance of their ultimate goal:  political control of the judiciary in this County.

These charges stem from hearsay accusations which were first made in 2007. We ask where was our esteemed former District Attorney Ms. Martinez then? According to the investigation, Judge Schultz claims she talked to practically every judge in the state. Yet, it’s only when Martinez moves to the Governor's office that she has acted. Furthermore, we must insist that the press present both sides to the community. Journalists must not be in the business of tainting the reputation of any judge simply because they were appointed by former Governor Richardson.

We also ask these questions: The prosecution is ecstatic that Judge James T. Martin has been temporarily removed from hearing criminal cases, yet Judge Martin is not the target of this investigation. Shouldn’t the same edict be made for Judge Lisa Schultz? She is the prosecution’s star witness but she is hearing criminal cases presented by the same body she is assisting. Shouldn’t she be removed from hearing criminal cases because of her bias? Can anyone honestly buy into the insinuation that every judge had to buy their appointments and that only Judge Schultz was somehow excused? She was appointed by the last governor as well.

We strongly caution the press and the public to apply due diligence and restraint in this case. We are certain that once all the facts are heard in a legitimate court of law, Judge Mike Murphy will be fully exonerated.

This is a guest blog by Christy French.

If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page. Publication of a guest blog does not necessarily mean that we agree or disagree with the points made.

May 23, 2011 at 11:14 PM in Democratic Party, Guest Blogger, Journalism, Justice, Las Cruces, Susana Martinez | Permalink


Well said Cristy! Thank you.

Posted by: Nancy Denker | May 24, 2011 12:54:16 PM