Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bad Week For NM Judges

State Court of Appeals Judge Robert Robles, who was arrested in February on a charge of drunken driving, has agreed to resign effective June 1 and agree to never again seek or accept a judicial post.

An order from the state Supreme Court Monday said all five high-court justices agreed that Robles should retire and never hold judicial office again.

The order also calls for a formal reprimand, which will be published in the state Bar Bulletin.

The Supreme Court had already suspended Robles without pay shortly after his Feb. 16 in Albuquerque.
The arrest came just three months after he was elected to the appeals court. He had been sitting on the Court of Appeals since 2008, when he was appointed by then-Gov. Bill Richardson to fill a vacancy. Robles served as a state district judge in Las Cruces for 17 years.

In late March, Robles pled guilty to the DWI charge. As a first-time offender, Robles was sentenced to community service, one year of probation and the use of an ignition interlock for a year. He was ordered to undergo an alcohol screening and complete DWI school.

A report in February by The Associated Press said an Albuquerque police officer pulled over Robles after having to swerve onto a sidewalk to avoid Robles' car as it sped through a red light about 1:15 a.m. The wire service reported that Robles had bloodshot eyes, his speech was slurred, and he reeked of alcohol.

The police complaint said a breath test showed Robles' blood-alcohol level was at least twice the state's legal limit of 0.08 percent. Robles told officers he had been “just circling around” on a “sad and lonely night.”

Robles’ name appeared in an investigator’s report attached to last week’s indictment of Las Cruces Judge Mike Murphy. The report said that in September 2007, another Las Cruces Judge, Lisa Shultz, went Robles — who was then chief judge in Las Cruces. Schultz told Robles about Murphy advising a local lawyer interested in a judgeship to make cash contributions to a local political figure.

According to Schultz’s account in the report, Robles offered to confront Murphy about that, but Schultz decided to do it herself.

In an unrelated case of a judge in trouble, the Supreme Court on Monday issued an order formally accepting the resignation of Taos District Judge Sam Sanchez.

Sanchez got in trouble in 2009 after he ordered arrested 32 people, almost all residents of Taos Pueblo, for making a disturbance in his courtroom.

“The court concludes that by intentionally jailing innocent people and by entering criminal convictions and depriving persons of their liberty without any effort to conform to even the most fundamental requirements of due process of law, (Sanchez) abused his judicial powers and committed serious willful misconduct in office,” the order says.

The court also ordered Sanchez to pay $1,115 in court costs.

Sanchez resigned in April days after a scathing Supreme Court hearing in which he was given an ultimatum — resign or be removed.