Albuquerque Republican attorney Ned Fuller is challenging incumbent Supreme Court Justice Ed Chavez, an Albuquerque Democrat, for the only contested seat this year on the state's highest court.
Fuller offers 11 years experience as an attorney and a brief stint as an assistant director of the Workman's Compensation Administration, where he handled some judicial duties, presiding over workman's comp cases. Fuller, along with his boss at the WCA, Paul Barber, has seized on the actions of Bernalillo County Judge John Brennan (busted for drunk driving and cocaine possession) as the catalyst for his election slogan—"rescue the courts." Fuller and Barber have also coined the term "fuzzy headed liberalitis" to describe our state court system as a whole and to rally conservatives to their side. Unfortunately, most New Mexicans know little about the innerworkings of the state judiciary, and we think it is unfortunate to mount a fear-based witchhunt against the entire system, when the vast majority of judges are doing an admirable job.
On the bright side, Fuller appeared to be a thoughtful, informed guy in our interview and conceded that the public's knowledge of the judicial system doesn't venture too far from the headlines. He maintained his stance as a reformer and alternative to, well, incumbency on the court. Without offering much detail, he vowed "more diversity of thought" on the five-member court, to which no Republican has been appointed or elected since 1986. While Fuller said he is personally financing the bulk of his campaign, unlike his opponent who has a wider cross-section of support from the legal community, Fuller will likely be boosted by attack ads financed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, directed at trial lawyers, and by implication Judge Chavez and Court of Appeals candidate, Democrat Michael Vigil. We detest phony negative ads, and if the CEOs running the U.S. Chamber of Commerce want to spend their money in our state, we can think of plenty of other, more dignified ways to do it.
As for Ed Chavez, he was appointed to the New Mexico Supreme Court by Gov. Bill Richardson 19 months ago to fill the vacancy left by Judge Gene Franchini. Like all appointees, Chavez' application was screened by a 20-member bipartisan judicial selection board, then recommended for appointment. The selection committee, by all accounts, runs a rigorous process including scrutinizing writing samples, references, experience and a comprehensive interview session with all 20 board members. He was selected by Gov. Richardson over the well-regarded Judge Frank Allen Jr. after receiving a unanimous recommendation from the board.
After serving as a law clerk at the State Supreme Court in 1981, Chavez practiced law in New Mexico for 22 years before earning his first appointment to the bench. By our standards, Chavez has the credentials, passionate commitment to the community and courage to safeguard the Constitution which are all essential for our endorsement. He also has the necessary energy and enthusiasm for his work reflected in his leading the State Supreme Court in written opinions during his short time on the bench. When asked to define an "activist judge," Chavez stated: "I don't like the partisan aspect of this election—the politics of fear and smear. You're not taught in law school to analyze a case from a Democrat or Republican perspective." We agree and trust that Chavez will serve New Mexicans with respect and impartiality.
The Alibi endorses Ed Chavez for Justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court.