On Tuesday, July 1, the Albuquerque Bar Association held a forum for the two candidates for the New Mexico Court of Appeals, incumbent Judge Miles Hanisee, the Republican nominee, and his challenger, appellate lawyer Kerry Kiernan, the Democratic nominee. The forum also included the candidates for New Mexico Attorney General, State Auditor Hector Balderas, the Democratic nominee, and former judge Susan Riedel, the Republican nominee. Jason Bousliman of Lewis & Roca moderated the discussion (and gave this blog a kind shout-out).
Mr. Kiernan talked about his clerkship for former Court of Appeals Judge A. Joseph Alarid, and said he has known for a long time that he would like to be an appellate judge. Mr. Kiernan stressed the need to decide cases quickly, noting that it is often stressful for clients to wait long months and even years for a decision. If elected, his priorities would be to write short, concise opinions with clear directions for lower courts, lawyers, and the public. He also thinks the Court of Appeals should consider certifying more cases to the New Mexico Supreme Court.
Judge Hanisee agreed that deciding cases is a priority, but said getting them right is more important. When asked about his judicial philosophy, he said he doesn’t think it is a good thing for a judge to bring a philosophy to a case, whether that be originalism or living constitutionalism. The focus has to be on getting the right result in each case. He also said that the Court of Appeals either is, or is close to being caught up on its work (I didn’t catch exactly what he said on this last point).
After that, the candidates for Attorney General spoke. Susan Riedel stressed her long experience as a prosecutor, as well as her more recent experiences as a judge and as a member of the Public Defender Commission. She said that the AG’s office needs “serious leadership,” and that the primary goal of the office has to be to protect the public. As AG, she would defend the state’s laws, even if she did not personally agree with some of them. She also stressed that she has no further political ambitions, and thus will carry out the duties of the office without an eye towards how her positions will affect her political prospects.
Hector Balderas talked about how he grew up in the northeastern New Mexico community of Wagon Mound. He talked about his experience in fighting governmental corruption in the State Auditor’s office, and stressed his bipartisanship, mentioning several times when he has worked alongside Republicans to investigate corruption. If he elected, his top three priorities would be protecting children, transforming the AG’s Office into a “premier” criminal and civil law enforcement organization, and advocating the creation of a Solicitor General’s office.