Articles Posted in New Mexico Supreme Court

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Petitioners who pursue the recall of a local school board member under the Recall Act are entitled to the procedural protections of the New Mexico statute prohibiting strategic litigation against public participation (Anti-SLAPP statute). This dispute arose out of a malicious abuse of process claim made by Taos school board member Arsenio Cordova (Cordova) against eighteen members of an unincorporated citizens’ association (collectively, Petitioners) following their efforts to remove Cordova from office under the Local School Board Member Recall Act (Recall Act). The New Mexico Supreme Court concluded that petitioners were entitled to immunity under the Noerr-Pennington doctrine when they exercise their right to petition unless the petitioners: (1) lacked sufficient factual or legal support; and (2) had a subjective illegitimate motive for exercising their right to petition. View "Cordova v. Cline" on Justia Law

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Kimberly Montano, a New Mexico resident, sought bariatric surgery for her obesity in early 2004. At that time Eldo Frezza, M.D. was the only doctor from whom Montano could receive that surgery and still be covered by her insurer. Montano believed that she needed the procedure and that she could not afford it without medical insurance coverage. Dr. Frezza was employed as a bariatric surgeon and professor and served as chief of bariatric surgery at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock, Texas. The issue this case ultimately presented for the New mexico Supreme Court’s review was whether a New Mexico resident who had been injured by the negligence of a state- employed Texas surgeon name that surgeon as a defendant in a New Mexico lawsuit when Texas sovereign immunity laws would require that the lawsuit be dismissed. The Court initially presumed that comity should be extended because cooperation and respect between states was important. “However, this presumption is overcome and a New Mexico court need not fully extend comity if the sister state’s law offends New Mexico public policy” In this case, the New Mexico Court applied the Texas provision requiring that the case against the surgeon be dismissed because do View "Montano v. Frezza" on Justia Law

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Petitioner and Albuquerque resident David Crum was registered to vote in New Mexico as a qualified voter who declined to designate or state his political party affiliation (DTS). He sought to vote during the 2014 primary election by selecting either a Democratic or a Republican ballot without having to amend his voter registration. Crum was not permitted to vote during the June 3, 2014 primary election because he was not registered as either a Democrat or a Republican1 on or before May 6, 2014. Crum contended that the Free and Open Clause of Article II, Section 8 of the New Mexico Constitution entitled him to vote during primary elections without registering with a major political party because he was a qualified voter under Article VII, Section 1. The Supreme Court disagreed: “[a]lthough the Free and Open Clause is intended to promote voter participation during elections, the Legislature has the constitutional power to enact laws that ‘secure the secrecy of the ballot and the purity of elections and guard against the abuse of [the] elective franchise.’” The Supreme Court therefore affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Crum’s complaint for failing to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. View "Crum v. Duran" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the New Mexico Supreme Court’s review was whether a 2009 default foreclosure judgment could be collaterally attacked based on assertions that the judgment was void for lack of jurisdiction and procured by fraud. In this case, those assertions were made by Phoenix Funding, LLC, which attempted to overturn a settled foreclosure judgment entered in favor of Aurora Loan Services, LLC. The Supreme Court held that the 2009 default judgment was not void and that Phoenix’s fraud claim was procedurally barred. The Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ judgment, reinstated the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Aurora, and remanded the case to the district court with instructions to dismiss Phoenix’s fraud claim. View "Phoenix Funding, LLC v. Aurora Loan Servs., LLC" on Justia Law

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New Mexico Rule of Evidence 11-410 NMRA stated that evidence of a nolo contendere plea made in settlement of a criminal proceedings was not admissible in civil proceedings against a defendant making such a plea. In this case, the issue presented for the New Mexico Supreme Court's consideration was whether evidence of a nolo plea was admissible in a civil case for misrepresentation where the plaintiffs sought to introduce a nineteen-year-old nolo plea of one defendant to support an argument that the defendant fraudulently failed to disclose his nolo plea during the formation of a joint business venture. The Court held that evidence of the nolo plea was inadmissible under both the express terms and the underlying purpose of Rule 11-410(A)(2), and the Court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment on that basis. The Court reversed the Court of Appeals which held to the contrary. View "Kipnis v. Jusbasche" on Justia Law

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The issue presented for the Supreme Court's review giving rise to this case was a collateral of the underlying judgment. Specifically, the issue was whether it was apparent on the face of a 1948 quiet title judgment that the district court affirmatively lacked jurisdiction over certain parties because they were notified by publication. It was alleged that in the 1948 lawsuit, such notice violated the Due Process Clause, depriving the district court of jurisdiction. Only when a party’s whereabouts are not reasonably ascertainable following diligent search and inquiry can constructive notice substitute for personal notice of suit. The Supreme Court found that constructive service of process by publication satisfied due process and established the 1948 district court’s personal jurisdiction. Therefore, the district court’s 1948 quiet title judgment was not void, and, accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals which held to the contrary. View "T.H. McElvain Oil & Gas Ltd. P'ship v. Benson-Montin-Greer Drilling Corp." on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the issue presented for the New Mexico Supreme Court's review centered on the scope of the New Mexico State Engineer’s regulatory authority over use of surface water in New Mexico when it has been diverted from the Animas River into an acequia in Colorado and accessed from that ditch by Petitioners and others in New Mexico. After review, the Court rejected petitioners’ arguments that the State Engineer lacked statutory authority over waters initially diverted outside of New Mexico and had no jurisdiction to enjoin petitioners from irrigating an area of farmland not subject to an existing adjudicated water right or a permit from the State Engineer. The Court held that the State Engineer was authorized by New Mexico law to require a permit for new, expanded, or modified use of this water and to enjoin any unlawful diversion. View "State Engineer v. Diamond K Bar Ranch, LLC" on Justia Law

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Lenard E. Noice worked as a conductor for Petitioner BNSF Railway Company (BNSF). He fell from a BNSF train that was moving at speed and perished. Respondent, Lenard Noice II, acting as personal representative for Noice (the Estate), filed a wrongful death action against BNSF under the Federal Employee’s Liability Act (FELA), asserting, among other claims, that BNSF negligently permitted the train from which Noice fell to operate at an excessive speed. The undisputed facts established that the train from which Noice fell never exceeded the speed limit for the class of track upon which it was operating. BNSF moved for summary judgment arguing that the Estate’s FELA excessive-speed claim was precluded by the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA). The district court accepted this argument and dismissed the Estate’s FELA claim. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that FRSA did not preclude a FELA excessive-speed claim. Because FRSA contained no provision expressly precluding the Estate’s FELA excessive-speed claim and because permitting the Estate’s FELA claim to proceed furthered the purposes of both statutes, the New Mexico Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals. View "Noice v. BNSF Ry. Co." on Justia Law

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Mary Herrera, when acting as the Secretary of State, terminated the employment of two employees of the Secretary of State’s office, James Flores and Manny Vildasol. In separate actions, Flores and Vildasol each asserted a Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) claim against Herrera in her individual capacity. Herrera left office; nevertheless, Flores and Vildasol sought to proceed with their individual-capacity WPA claims against her. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review was whether the WPA would allow for a state employee to assert a claim against a state officer in that officer's individual capacity. The Court of Appeals concluded that the WPA allowed the employees to continue their suit, but the Supreme Court disagreed and reversed the Court of Appeals. On remand, the Supreme Court instructed the courts to dismiss Flores’s individual-capacity claim against Herrera and, with respect to Flores’s official-capacity claim against Herrera, to enter a substitution order. InVildasol’s case, the Court instructed the trial court to dismiss Vildasol’s individual-capacity claim against Herrera and to proceed with Vildasol’s claim against the Secretary of State’s office. View "Flores v. Herrera" on Justia Law

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The Pueblo of San Felipe (Pueblo) appealed a Court of Appeals decision declining to extend the Pueblo immunity from suit. Hamaatsa, Inc. (Hamaatsa) owned land in Sandoval County. Adjacent to Hamaatsa’s property was land owned in fee by the Pueblo. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) conveyed to the Pueblo, in fee simple, the land at issue on December 13, 2001. The property, adjacent and contiguous with reservation land, was not then held in trust by the federal government as part of the Pueblo’s reservation. In its 2001 conveyance to the Pueblo, the BLM reserved an easement and right-of-way over, across the parcel at issue here ( “932 Roads” or “R.S. 2477 Roads,”). The BLM purported to quitclaim its interest in one particular R.S. 2477 to the Pueblo. Hamaatsa used Northern R.S. 2477 on the Pueblo’s property to access its land. In August 2009, Hamaatsa received a letter from the then Governor of the Pueblo stating that Hamaatsa had no legal right of access across the Pueblo’s property and that Hamaatsa’s use of Northern R.S. 2477 was a trespass. Hamaatsa continued to use the road and filed suit requesting that the district court declare that the Pueblo cannot restrict use of the road. The Pueblo moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing its immunity deprived the district court of jurisdiction to hear Hamaatsa's case. The Supreme Court agreed the district court lacked jurisdiction and remanded the case for dismissal. View "Hamaatsa, Inc. v. Pueblo of San Felipe" on Justia Law