Monday, May 20, 2024

Thy Own Treasurer

The New Mexico Supreme Court has publicly censured a magistrate court judge for campaign violations

Judge Sichler’s actions violated Rules 21-101 and 21-102 of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Judge Sichler was required to designate a treasurer to file expenditure reports pursuant to Section 1-19-29(I). The treasurer she named in the expenditure report withdrew his consent, and Judge Sichler then acted as her own treasurer. This action was contrary to statute and thus was a violation of Rule 21-101 (“A judge shall respect and comply with the law . . . .”). Acting as treasurer allowed Judge Sichler to know who contributed to her campaign and know the monetary amounts of those contributions. Judge Sichler had intimate knowledge of campaign rules, having sought the office of treasurer for Valencia County in 2020. Judge Sichler’s conduct created actual impropriety by violating Section 1-19-29(I) and is contrary to Rule 21-102 (“A judge . . . shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.”).

Misconduct

 Judge Sichler, acting as her own campaign treasurer, violated both Rule 21-402 and Rule 21-404 of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Section 62-19-34(A) of the Campaign Reporting Act requires judicial candidates to have a treasurer who is not the candidate. Judge Sichler failed to set up a valid campaign committee. Rule 21-402(A)(1)(e) requires a judicial candidate planning on accepting donations to set up a campaign committee pursuant to Rule 21-404. “This rule restricts contributions for campaigns for judicial office to sources and amounts that do not create an appearance of impropriety.” Rule 21-402 comm. cmt. 1. Rule 21-404 requires a judicial candidate to set up a campaign committee to avoid personally soliciting or accepting contributions to the candidate’s own campaign. Judge Sichler set up a campaign committee through the Secretary of State entitled The Committee to Elect Deseri Sichler. Judge Sichler was the sole member of the Committee. She listed her personal phone number, home address, and personal email as the contact for the committee.

 Judge Sichler agrees that the violations of the rules erode the public’s confidence in her ability to follow the law. The violations also reflect negatively on the New Mexico judiciary as a whole and are prejudicial to the effective administration of justice. Pursuant to this Court’s power to discipline judges under the New Mexico Constitution Article VI, Section 32, and the Court’s power of superintending control under the New Mexico Constitution Article VI, Section 3, Judge Sichler shall receive a Public Censure. Acceptance of judicial discipline protects the public, preserves the public’s confidence in the integrity, independence, and impartiality of the judicial system, and enforces the standards of conduct established by Code of Judicial Conduct. See Rule 21-216 NMRA comm. cmt. (“Cooperation with investigations and proceedings of judicial . . . discipline agencies . . . instills confidence in judges’ commitment to the integrity of the judicial system and the protection of the public.”).

This Court has considered the admitted facts and violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct and the approved Stipulation, and we hereby publicly censure Judge Sichler for willfully violating the established rules and standards that govern every New Mexico judge’s conduct. We issue this Public Censure to strengthen the public’s confidence in the integrity, impartiality, and independence of the judiciary and to remind all judges that misconduct which erodes the public’s confidence will not be tolerated.

(Mike Frisch)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2024/05/the-new-mexico-supreme-court-has-censured-a-judge-judge-sichler-acting-as-her-own-campaign-treasurer-violated-both-rule-21.html

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