Wednesday, June 27, 2007
A full-time magistrate was removed from office by order of the New Mexico Supreme Court. After sentencing a traffic offender, he recused himself from further proceedings "due to a personal relationship that he had developed with her after sentencing." He thereafter tried to influence the rulings of two magistrates with respect to potential violations of probation. He also was a passenger in a car driven by the probationer when she was stopped for speeding. He asked the officer: "Do you know who I am?"
The magistrate's "bizarre behavior...was noticable to court employees" which gave rise to suspicion of illegal drug use. An order for drug testing was issued and he avoided service for several days. It did not help, as he tested positive for cocaine and cocaine metabolites. The court noted that removal from the bench is a power "rarely exercised" but that "the situation...commands that grave result."
In an unrelated matter, the court rejected a recommendation to discipline a judge on charges that he had improperly issued criminal contempt complaints against two attorneys and failed to recuse himself from the proceedings. The court found that the conduct was negligent rather than willful and thus the charges were not proven by clear and convincing evidence. (Mike Frisch)