Friday, February 2, 2024

Anti-COVID Advocacy Draws Sanction In New Mexico

The New Mexico Supreme Court accepted a consent sanction in a matter involving an attorney's advocacy against COVID-imposed restrictions

we suspended Respondent from the practice of law for a period of one year, to be deferred in lieu of unsupervised probation with conditions, and we assessed costs to Respondent and indicated that this Court’s public censure would follow separately. This is that public censure, which we now issue to admonish Respondent for her uncontested misconduct and to caution her and others against engaging in other, similar, future misconduct.

The story

Respondent has been an attorney licensed to practice law in New Mexico since 1981. This disciplinary action arose from Respondent’s conduct during her representation of two different clients in separate matters each related to the COVID-19 public health emergency: a group of employees of Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) regarding SNL’s COVID-19 policies and Backstreet Grill, LLC, (Backstreet) regarding the revocation of its food permit for noncompliance with a COVID-19 public health order. Respondent has no prior disciplinary history.

Respondent does not contest that the facts summarized herein relating to her representation of the SNL employees and Backstreet, respectively, resulted in violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Respondent wrote SNL on the letterhead of her organization New Mexico Stands Up

Please be advised that the undersigned Counsel represents a large group of employees at [SNL]. This letter serves as formal notice to cease and desist all actions related to mandates requiring employees to wear a face mask, submit to COVID-19 tests or be injected with the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment.


While Respondent denies writing or signing the letter, she does not contest that she approved the letter.

In the appeal of the Backstreet food permit revocation

In the Acceptance of Service Respondent made the following additional statements:

 Statement referring to the Governor of New Mexico, Michelle Lujan Grisham and “her partners in crime . . . .”
 Repeated statements referring to Governor Lujan Grisham as a tyrant.
 “Either our Supreme Court justices are blind or, alternatively, by their practice of medicine in all of our courts, which is what their latest COVID crap to come out of them is, they are complicit in this made up production.”
 “A restaurant refused to make its employees wear a face-diaper (because after all, you are breathing in your own shit), nor be the Nazi brownshirt enforcing any of the tyrant’s latest rules, over which she has to be cracking up.”
 “The government and the courts ain’t following the rules, and neither is this client, nor the undersigned attorney.”
 Statement that Governor Grisham “seized power with the glee of an adrenochrome addict.”
 Statement referring to the legislature as “spineless tools.”
 “I hope you will join us on the side of God, make your choice now. Your actions will expose you.”
 “And let this be Notice of our removed . . . right to challenge this judge, and any subsequently assigned Judge i[f] she/he has taken the experimental gene therapy because they can’t understand the bigger issues at hand now.”
 Statement that opposing counsel was an “unethical opponent” and accusing opposing counsel of misleading “the court to imply, without exactly saying, nothing about the constitutionality of what began its attack on a citizen exercising constitution rights, AND DUTY to abolish or correct a government that has gone despotic.

The court

Respondent’s inflammatory and misleading statements made in court filings harmed her clients, opposing counsel, the public, and various members of the judicial and the executive branches. This conduct harmed Respondent’s client because in making her offensive comments, Respondent placed her personal interest in the subject matter of the litigation above her client’s interests—impairing Respondent’s representation of her client...

Respondent’s statements were also deleterious to opposing counsel, members of the judicial and executive branches, and the legal profession as a whole. The discipline imposed publicly renounces this behavior on behalf of the community, identifies how such statements violate our Rules of Professional Conduct, and protects the public by discouraging similar statements in the future by Respondent or other attorneys.

A concluding admonition

we remind Respondent “that the license to practice law is a conditional privilege. As a condition to that privilege, Respondent has the duty to act at all times, both professionally and personally, in conformity with our Rules of Professional Conduct.” Bristol, 2006-NMSC-041, ¶ 34. In so doing Respondent must “abstain from all offensive personality,” especially during the course of representing a client when she must place her client’s interests above her own. Rules 15-304, 16-107(A)(2); Marshall, 2023-NMSC-006, ¶ 22. Finally, we caution Respondent and others against engaging in such offensive and unprofessional behavior in the future.

(Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink


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