Independence in New Mexico revisited

BY Jon Mosher on Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 10:26 AM

In a March 5th editorial, the Albuquerque Journal (subscription required) called for the New Mexico public defender system to be overseen by an independent commission.  New Mexico has a statewide, state-funded indigent defense system that provides services through a combination of staffed public defender offices and contract attorneys.  As we wrote in our February 28 Gideon Alert on the matter: “The dismissal of the public defender is expected with the election of a new governor because New Mexico’s chief public defender is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the governor, rather than through a non-partisan public defense commission as required by national standards including ABA Principle 1.”

Governor Martinez has yet to name a replacement to head the public defender system. The dismissal of the chief defender in the middle of a legislative session without a replacement “brings questions for the department's ability to advocate for itself.”  The establishment of an independent defender commission, as called for by the Albuquerque Journal, will insulate the right to counsel in the state of New Mexico from political interference.

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