New Mexico Supreme Court

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New Mexico Supreme Court
Court information
Justices:   5
Location:   Santa Fe, New Mexico
Chief:  $126,000
Associates:  $124,000
Judicial selection
Method:   Partisan election of judges
Term:   8 years
Active justices

Edward Chavez  •  Charles Daniels  •  Petra Jimenez Maes  •  Richard Bosson  •  Barbara J. Vigil  •  

Seal of New Mexico.png

The New Mexico Supreme Court is the state's highest court and final court of review (court of last resort). The court is composed of five justices; four associate justices and one Chief Justice.


See State Supreme Court justices.
The current justices of the court are:
JudgeTermSelected byParty
Justice Edward Chavez2003-2014Gov. Bill RichardsonDemocratic
Justice Charles Daniels2007-2018Gov. Bill RichardsonDemocratic
Chief Justice Petra Jimenez Maes1998-2018Gov. Gary E. JohnsonDemocratic
Justice Richard Bosson2002-2020Democratic
Justice Barbara J. Vigil2012-2020Democratic


The court may hear direct appeals in cases of life sentences or writs of habeas corpus. Additionally, all cases from the Public Regulation Commission and election challenges. "In its discretion, the Court may issue writs of certiorari, mandamus, prohibition, and superintending control."

Judicial selection

See Partisan election of judges.

Justices are selected by both gubernatorial commission process and partisan elections. The Commission recommends to the Governor several candidates, and upon appointment by the Governor, the judge runs in the subsequent partisan election. To retain office, the judge must run on a nonpartisan ballot and win at least 57% of the vote.[1]

Political outlook

See also: Political outlook of State Supreme Court Justices

In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of State Supreme Court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of New Mexico was given a Campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, New Mexico received a score of -1.18. Based on the justices selected, New Mexico was the most liberal court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.[2]


To be a qualified candidate of the Supreme Court, the person must be no younger than 35, must have practiced law for at least 10 years, and must have been a resident of the state for at least three years.

Removal of justices

To remove a justice in New Mexico, the Supreme Court may remove the judge based on the recommendation of the judicial standards commission, or a judge may be impeached by the house and convicted by the senate of the state.


Fiscal Year Filings Dispositions
2012 597 580
2011 621 662
2010 671 749
2009 601 658
2008 701 767
2007 609 647


Notable decisions

New Mexico Supreme Court approves same-sex marriages

December 19, 2013
In a bold unanimous decision, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriages are constitutionally protected in the state.[4]

New Mexico lacks any statutes on same-sex relationships per se. The standing marriage and license laws, unchanged since 1961, do require a form for both the female and male parties applying for the license. Previous attorneys general have held this to be a de facto prohibition of same-sex licenses, as such a standard cannot be met by same-sex couples. The courts have historically interpreted that the marriage statutes, "when read as a whole," enforce an effective prohibition on same sex marriages.[5] In a move started by a single county clerk, 8 counties started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The confusion led county officials to ask the state supreme court to clarify the matter.[6]

Justice Edward L. Chavez wrote in the unanimous opinion delivered on December 19, 2013,

This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.

We hold that the State of New Mexico is constitutionally required to allow same-gender couples to marry and must extend to them the rights, protections, and responsibilities that derive from civil marriage.[4][5]
The court maintained that the issuance of a marriage license is purely a secular matter, and does not require religious institutions to “solemnize” same-sex marriages if their doctrine forbids it.[4][5]

Religious groups and advocates resistant to same-sex marriage are not so optimistic. Ken Klukowski of the Family Research Council accused the court of acting as a legislature and generating law without a constitutional basis.[4] The court did not strike down any particular statute because there was none. Instead, it issued an interpretation of the state constitution’s equal protection clause. The unusual style of decision, while not changing state code, does have real impacts on marriage in the state. First, the state now has an official and explicit position on the issue, where previously it did not. Second, it preempts any legislation on the matter, and finally, it requires counties to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Additionally, inferior courts are bound by the high court's precedent.

Other criticisms focused on the non-procreative role of same-sex marriages and therefore their position outside of New Mexico statute. Some parties involved argued that the government has an interest in responsible childbearing and that interest serves as the whole basis for marriage and state involvement. In response, Justice Chavez wrote: “[T]he purported governmental interest of 'responsible procreation and childrearing' is not reflected in the history of the development of New Mexico’s marriage laws. Procreation has never been a condition of marriage under New Mexico law.”[5]

In summation, the court compared statutes prohibiting same-sex marriages to those historically prohibiting interracial marriage. The opinion stated: "It is inappropriate to define the governmental interest as maintaining only opposite-gender marriages, just as it was inappropriate to define the governmental interest as maintaining same-race marriages in Loving.” Loving refers to Loving v. Virginia, the famous court case in which interracial marriage bans were struck down. The court further stated, in language reflective of federal and historical cases regarding marriage rights, that

This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.

...barring individuals from marrying and depriving them of the rights, protections, and responsibilities of civil marriage solely because of their sexual orientation violates the Equal Protection Clause under Article II, Section 18 of the New Mexico Constitution.[5]

State Attorney General Gary King said he was pleased with the courts decision, and given recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, it is likely to maintain precedence in the "Land of the Enchantment" for some time. King agreed that same-sex couples can feel confident obtaining New Mexico marriage licenses.[7]

Supreme Court finds wedding photographers guilty of discrimination against lesbian couple


Financial disclosure

See also: Center for Public Integrity Study on State Supreme Court Disclosure Requirements

In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. New Mexico earned a grade of F in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.[11]

History of the court

For a complete history of the New Mexico Supreme Court, click here.

Territorial laws

The Kearny Code of Laws of 1846 provided the territorial laws of New Mexico prior to statehood.[12]

Compiled Laws of New Mexico 1897

The Laws of 1897, Chapter XLIII, found that "There has been no legal compilation of the laws of the Territory of New Mexico since the year 1884 and the available supply of the Compiled Laws of that year and the Session Laws of 1887 and 1889 have been entirely destroyed by fire and those of other sessions of the Legislature have become practically exhausted in the hands of the Territorial Secretary and Librarian, so that to procure copies of the laws of years is attended with great expense and trouble."

Supreme Court building

"The Supreme Court building"

The court meets in "the Supreme Court building" in Santa Fe. The construction for the building began in 1934 and was completed in 1937 at a total cost of $307,000. This building is the only building in the state that the Public Works Administration project created and is still being used for the intended purpose. The building is registered on the Historic Santa Fe Foundation Registry, the State of New Mexico register of historic buildings, and the National Register of Historic Places.[13]

Notable firsts

See also

External links



CandidateIncumbencyPartyPrimary VoteElection Vote
ChavezEdward Chavez Yes   


CandidateIncumbencyDivisionPrimary VoteElection Vote
VigilBarbara J. Vigil   ApprovedANo54.81%   ApprovedA
KennedyPaul J. Kennedy    No45.19%   DefeatedD
BossonRichard Bosson   ApprovedAYes75.31%   ApprovedA


See also: 2010 State Supreme Court elections

Charles Daniels stood for retention and was retained.

New Mexico Supreme Court
2010 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Charles Daniels BallotCheckMark.png n/a n/a

Petra Jimenez Maes stood for retention and was retained.

New Mexico Supreme Court
2010 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Petra Jimenez Maes BallotCheckMark.png n/a n/a


See also: State Supreme Court elections, 2008

Patricio Serna stood for retention and was retained.

New Mexico Supreme Court
2008 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Patricio Serna BallotCheckMark.png n/a 75%

Charles Daniels stood for retention and was retained.

New Mexico Supreme Court
2008 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Charles Daniels BallotCheckMark.png n/a n/a

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