N.M. Judge, Defeated in November, Wants Job Back

state-flag-new-mexicoIt’s an unusual twist for New Mexico’s hybrid merit system of selecting judges. A district court judge whom voters chose not to retain in November is seeking appointment by the governor to fill the vacancy created by his defeat.

District Judge Albert J. Mitchell Jr. of Tucumcari failed to win a retention (up-or-down) vote after late-hour campaigning by a newly established political group called the Committee for Law and Order, according to the Albuquerque Tribune.

A lawyer who largely funded the committee, Warren F. Frost, recently asked the state Supreme Court to bar a judicial screening commission from weighing Mitchell’s application to fill the judgeship by appointment. The high court rejected Frost’s request.

“Why did we have this election if he (Mitchell) can avoid the result?” the lawyer contended.

New Mexico’s Constitution does not bar a judge defeated in a retention election from seeking the governor’s appointment to the newly created vacancy, Justice Petra Jimenez Maes said during the proceeding.

In 2008, Mitchell won a contested election to serve as district judge.