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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Gallegos Suspended for 90 Days/JSC Director Married to Governor's Political Director

Have just returned from The State Supreme Court where the justices heard the arguments for and against suspension of Santa Fe Municipal Judge Frances Gallegos and decided, unanimously according to Chief Justice Richard Bosson, to suspend her, with pay, for 90 days.

Judge Gallegos with her lawyer Aaron Wolf. Wolf told the Supreme Court Justices that Gallegos' re-election meant she had public confidence.

The Judicial Standards Commission had sought a 30-day unpaid suspension and an indefinite suspension until they finished an investigation into several allegations of misconduct against Gallegos. Those allegations include claims that defendents constitutional rights were violated in Gallegos' court but, possibly more pressing, the pending questions about what she did when she amended these DWI abstracts that have been at the heart of the JSC claims.
It wasn't quite as crowded as I'd thought it might be. I did predict the Court would suspend her with pay, although I thought it would be for 30 rather than 90 days. I think the JSC screwed itself a bit by not being able to say, definitively, how long their investigation would take, which made it easier for Gallegos' lawyer, Aaron Wolf, to argue that the JSC would be more motivated to finish its investigation if they didn't have an indefinite suspension on its hands.
JSC Exec. Director James Noel, was very clear in his presentation. Noel said that the JSC only goes public the way it has with Gallegos when things are very serious. Noel even implied that while District Judge Barbara Vigil, Gallegos' "ethics" mentor gave Gallegos a good review, she might not have had she known about everything else that was going on. The Supreme Court didn't seem to buy this part of the argument, as they denied the request for 30-day suspension without pay. That motion, said in part: "In consideration of Judge Frances Gallegos’ pattern of conduct that underlies the Commission’s new investigations and petition for temporary suspension, the Commission has determined that Judge Frances Gallegos has failed to complete successfully the formal mentorship required concerning her obligations under the Code of Judicial Conduct.."

This is Jim Noel. It turns out Noel is married to Amanda Cooper, who works for Gov. Richardson in a political director role. I learned this because Jill Cooper, Amanda's mother, was at the hearing. Jill Cooper is Tom Udall's wife. It's a small world after all.
As far as the media circus, they were there, as was the public but, again, quietly. Jason Auslander, from The New Mex, has definitely been leading this story, and they may have it down, but I know something weird has gone on with all this. Wolf, Gallegos' lawyer, said during the hearing that the amended abstracts came to public light because a former employee (Hanika) who we wrote about, gave them to the media. We called Auslander and asked him if the documents he had looked at came from Hanika and he said no. But then where the hell did they come from? Auslander wouldn't say when one of our reporters called up and asked him.
Felipe C DeBaca (sorry, I'm sure that was spelled wrong), one of Fran's longtime critics (he ran against her in the last election) was at the hearing with his "Fran Can" sign but, other than that, it was pretty tame. Fran wouldn't comment after the hearing and looked pretty tearful. A few city workers outside asked me afterwards what happened. When I told them she got 90 days suspension with pay they said: "Must be nice."