Roundup of links discussing the Gorsuch nomination

As you have doubtless heard by now, President Trump has nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch, of our very own Tenth Circuit, to fill the Supreme Court seat held by Justice Antonin Scalia until his death last February.

About five years ago I began a practice of reading every Judge Gorsuch opinion because they are so well-written. The impression I’ve formed of him is that he’s incredibly brilliant, impartial, serious, and devoted to the Constitution.

Here’s a roundup of links about this nomination. Naturally, conservatives are more enthusiastic about Judge Gorsuch than liberals (the latter probably disagree with Judge Gorsuch’s jurisprudence, and are unhappy with how Senate Republicans treated President Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland). But I’ll post links from all sides that I can find (if you know of any that I’ve missed and should include here, please e-mail me!):

Trump Nominates Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court by Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Mark Landler of the New York Times.

Trump picks Colo. appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court by Robert Barnes of the Washington Post.

Trump nominates Gorsuch to fill Scalia vacancy by Amy Howe at SCOTUSblog.

Neil Gorsuch: A Worthy Heir to Scalia by Ramesh Ponnuru in National Review.

Donald Trump nominates Colorado’s Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court by Mark K. Matthews, John Frank, and David Migoya in the Denver Post.

Why Liberals Should Back Neil Gorsuch by Neal Katyal in the New York Times.

Neil Gorsuch Is Not a Villain by Mark Joseph Stern at

Is It Payback Time For Blocking Merrick Garland? by Kevin Drum in Mother Jones.

Neil Gorsuch, Elite Conservative by Prof. Noah Feldman at

Numerous posts about Gorsuch by Ed Whelan at National Review’s Bench Memos blog.

And here’s a list of other links of to reactions by people and organizations, in support of and opposition to the nomination, posted at SCOTUSblog.



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Justice Alito to visit Albuquerque on February 14

Justice Samuel Alito of the Supreme Court of the United States will be visiting Albuquerque on Tuesday, February 14, where he will hold a “Fireside Chat.”

The event will be held at the old Federal Courthouse Building at 421 Gold Avenue SW in downtown Albuquerque. Lunch will be served at 11:15 a.m. The program will begin at noon and conclude around 1:00 p.m.

The Inns of Court, the Federalist Society, and the Federal Bar Association are co-sponsoring this event. You can register through the Federalist Society at this link. It may also be possible to register through the Inns of Court or the FBA, but if so I don’t have links to those! Space is limited, so if you are interested in attending, you should register soon.

Justice Harris Hartz of the Tenth Circuit will be posing questions to Justice Alito. If you’d like to submit a question for consideration, please e-mail them to

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NM Supreme Court: Probation term does not expire if defendant absconds

When a term of probation expires, it means the defendant has satisfied all criminal liability, and is entitled to a certificate from a court saying so. See NMSA 1978, sec. 31-20-8. The term of probation is tolled, however, if the defendant is a fugitive from justice. See NMSA 1978, sec. 31-21-15(C).

Last January, the Court of Appeals issued a controversial decision in State v. Begay, holding Section 31-21-15(C) applies only to sentences imposed by a district court, not a magistrate court (where defendant Begay was sentenced).

The upshot was that if a defendant violated his probation, and managed to avoid capture until after the original term of probation expired, then he would get off scot-free, since his probation could no longer be revoked.

The legislature and governor found this to be … less than satisfactory, and immediately amended the tolling statute to clarify that it applies to probation sentences imposed by magistrate courts too.

Yesterday the Supreme Court also pronounced itself less than satisfied, and reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision. The unanimous opinion in State v. Begay, written by Justice Nakamura, acknowledges that the plain language of Section 31-20-8 does not say that a term of probation doesn’t expire while a defendant is on the lam. But interpreting the statute in that way would lead to absurd results, because doing so would incentivize defendants to violate the terms of their probation and then attempt to evade the reach of the court until their probationary terms ended.

Thus, employing the “absurdity canon,” the Supreme Court held that a term of probation does not expire under Section 31-20-8 where a defendant becomes a fugitive from justice while on probation. I agree that this is the right result.

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Gov. Martinez appoints Henry “Hank” Bohnhoff to the NM Court of Appeals

This afternoon Governor Martinez announced the appointment of Henry “Hank” Bohnhoff to fill the seat on the New Mexico Court of Appeals vacated by Judge Roderick Kennedy.

Mr. Bohnhoff is a highly-regarded lawyer and has enjoyed a distinguished career for over 30 years. He graduated from Stanford University in 1978, and from Columbia Law School in 1982. He clerked for Chief Judge Howard C. Bratton of the federal district court here in New Mexico, and then served as Chief Assistant and Deputy Attorney General for the State of New Mexico from 1987 to 1989.

Since then, he has practiced law at the Rodey Law Firm in Albuquerque, where he has focused on commercial and real estate litigation, with particular expertise in land use and zoning. The people of New Mexico are fortunate that they will now enjoy his services on the Court of Appeals.

Once he takes office, Mr. Bohnhoff will be required to run in a partisan race in the 2018 general election.

Congratulations to Judge Bohnhoff!


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Gov. Martinez reappoints Stephen French to the NM Court of Appeals

I’m a little late to the party on this, as I haven’t been blogging for a while, but on December 22, Governor Martinez reappointed Judge Stephen French to the Court of Appeals to fill the seat vacated by Judge Michael Bustamante.

Judge French was originally appointed to the Court in early 2016, but was defeated by incoming Judge Julie Vargas in the November 2016 general election.

Congratulations to Judge French, and to a great new year for the Court!

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Have lunch with Judge Wechsler of the NM Court of Appeals

The State Bar’s Appellate Section will host a brown bag lunch with Judge James Wechsler of the Court of Appeals on Friday, December 2, at noon, at the State Bar Center in Albuquerque.

This event is part of a series of quarterly brown bag lunches with our state appellate judges sponsored by the Appellate Practice Section. This lunch will provide an excellent opportunity to ask any questions you might have about appellate practice in general or the Court of Appeals in particular.

Space is limited, so please RSVP to Tim Atler (e-mail: if you would like to attend.

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Tenth Circuit upholds lawyer’s conviction for tax evasion

Today the Tenth Circuit upheld a Kansas lawyer’s conviction for tax evasion, rejecting his arguments that insufficient evidence was presented to prove an “affirmative act” designed to conceal or mislead, and insufficient evidence to prove willfulness.

Here the defendant named someone else as the owner of his law firm in an effort to prevent the IRS from seizing his assets, had the firm pay his personal expenses directly rather than paying him a salary, and then lied by telling the government that he wasn’t receiving compensation from the law firm.

The Tenth Circuit had little trouble affirming the convictions. Judge Paul Kelly wrote the opinion in United States v. Boisseau.

The lesson here is: Don’t do this.

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Nakamura, Vargas prevail in New Mexico’s appellate judicial races

According to the Secretary of State’s website, Republican Justice Judith Nakamura has prevailed over Chief Judge Michael Vigil, the Democratic candidate, in the race for the New Mexico Supreme Court, by a vote of 391,841 to 361,553.

And in the Court of Appeals race, Democratic challenger Julie Vargas has prevailed over Republican incumbent Judge Stephen French by a note of 390,787 to 353,654.

Congratulations to Justice Nakamura and soon-to-be Judge Vargas!

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Interview with Chief Judge Michael Vigil, Democratic candidate for the NM Supreme Court

CJ VigilI recently met with Chief Judge Michael Vigil of the New Mexico Court of Appeals. He is the Democratic candidate for the New Mexico Supreme Court in next month’s general election. You can find his campaign website here.

Q.  I’m here this afternoon with Chief Judge Michael Vigil of the Court of Appeals. Thank you for your time today.

A.  It’s my pleasure to be here with you.

Q.  Tell us about your family and background before going to law school.

A.  My mother and my natural father divorced when I was very young. And that family, I’ve gotten to know them very well in recent years – the Vigiles of Española. They go back deep into the history of New Mexico. My grandfather and grandmother helped build the church up there in Española, the Sacred Heart Church. There’s actually a street named for them by the church. Their farm is where the community college is now located.

And I’ve found out that there is a relationship – it’s not real close – with Donaciano Vigil, the first governor of the Territory of New Mexico. So it’s a large family. I think there’s a chance I might even be related to Father Martinez of Taos fame, who brought the first printing press to New Mexico, and had some big fights with Archbishop Lamy. He was originally from Abiquiu, and had a large family there, and after his wife died, he went on to become a priest. And my great-great-grandfather on my mother’s side was a Martinez from Abiquiu.

Basically I was raised in the Air Force, and we traveled all over the world, and I went to four high schools before graduating finally from Santa Fe High School. Then I went on to the College of Santa Fe, where I got my B.A., and from there I went on to law school.

My mother and father really didn’t have money to send me to school, so I was going to join the Air Force Academy, and received an appointment, but at the last minute they sent me a postcard saying that I didn’t have enough background in math and science to succeed, so I was turned down.

So here I was in May, and I wrote to UNM, and they said they’ll accept me, but I didn’t have any money. My plan then was to join the Army, and in 1969 the Vietnam War was still going pretty strong. So my plan was to join the Army, and hopefully live, and then get the GI Bill.

I took my mother to lunch to tell her about my plan, and she said “What’s wrong with the College of Santa Fe? You can live at home. We’ll help you as much as we can.” I checked with the school, and they looked at my SAT or ACT score, and they asked if I’d looked at the dean’s scholarship, which would pay half the tuition. So I went and applied, and Brother Luke was the president at the time, and I got a dean’s or presidential scholarship. And that’s how I ended up at the College of Santa Fe.

Q.  Why did you decide to attend law school, and where did you go?

A.  Like many lawyers, I decided to attend law school because I didn’t know what to do! I had a B.A. from the College of Santa Fe, where I’d studied political science and history, and really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I asked people for advice, and a lot of them recommended law school, because they teach you to think in a certain way. So I applied to eight law schools, and four accepted me. And one of the four that accepted me was Georgetown Law School in Washington, D.C., so I decided to borrow money to go to school there.

That was the summer of Watergate, in 1973, and I got a job out there in Washington, and part of my education was learning about Watergate, and all the people that were involved. Senator Montoya of New Mexico was on the Watergate Committee, so I got to see all the hearings. During my first year of law school, I went to see the Watergate tapes case argued in the U.S. Supreme Court. I was the third person in line to see that. I had to spend the night out on the steps! It was an experience that you remember for the rest of your life.

A lot of players in the Watergate case had connections to Georgetown. It was super being in the capital. I got to watch U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments all the time, and other courts.

Q.  Describe your career between leaving law school and joining the Court of Appeals.

A.  I graduated from law school in 1976, the bicentennial. I applied to some law firms, and received some offers from big giant megafirms. And I was really not that interested in going to work for one of the multinational law firms.

I also applied to the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, and was lucky enough to be selected for the job. The acceptance letter said the position was subject to funding. So I graduated, got my degree, and came back to New Mexico to take the bar exam. During the course of the summer, I tried to make contact with the people at DOJ, and could never reach anybody or get any answers about what was going on.

In the meantime, I had family and friends who were encouraging me to stay in New Mexico. I heard about a job at the New Mexico Court of Appeals. And I went to the clerk’s office at the Court of Appeals. I was driving a motorcycle in those days, and was wearing jeans and a t-shirt and a helmet. I inquired about whether the job was still open, the lady at the counter said “Yes, it is.” And she directed me to the basement.

I went down to the basement, and met Winston Roberts-Hohl, who was the original director of the Prehearing Division. He interviewed me then and there, and we hit it off immediately. He called me the following week and said I had the job if I wanted it. So I said, “You’ve got yourself a lawyer.” I started the following Monday, and went to work as one of the two original attorneys in the Prehearing Division at the New Mexico Court of Appeals. I stayed there almost three years.

I left there and came to Albuquerque, and worked with Ernesto Romero, who later became a district court judge. Then I was on my own for a while, and then met Billy Marchiondo, and ended up in his law firm, where I stayed for over twenty years, until I went to the New Mexico Court of Appeals. Continue reading

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Interview with Justice Judith Nakamura, Republican candidate for the New Mexico Supreme Court

Justice Judith Nakamura
Justice Judith Nakamura

I recently met with Justice Judith Nakamura, who was appointed to the New Mexico Supreme Court in 2015 by Governor Martinez. She is running to keep her seat as the Republican candidate in this year’s general election. Her campaign website is here.

Q.  Good afternoon, I’m here with Justice Judith Nakamura of the New Mexico Supreme Court. Thank you for talking with me today.

A.  Thank you for meeting with me. Good afternoon.

Q.  Tell us about your family, and your background before going to law school.

A.  My family moved to New Mexico when I was twelve years old. My mom had just remarried, and she and my dad came to New Mexico to look for land where they would retire when the kids were out of school. Well, on the completion of that one trip to New Mexico, they returned to New York and said “Guess what? At the end of this school year, we’re moving to New Mexico.”

Imagine the shock for a twelve-year-old girl! So we moved to Rio Rancho, and I grew up in Sandoval County and Bernalillo County, attending middle school in the North Valley, and eventually Cibola High School.

And I’m single and the mother of three adorable but loud rescue dogs.

Q.   And where did you go to college?

A.  I went to the University of New Mexico for both my undergraduate and law school degrees.

Q.   Why did you decide to go to law school?

A.  Well, I never envisioned being a lawyer, much less a judge. I was involved in political campaigns. And I happened to meet a gentleman who was in the Reagan administration, and he said “What do you do for a living?” And I proudly said, “I work on campaigns.” And he looked me straight in the eye and said, “That’s not a career. You should consider something like law school.”

And he convinced me in short order that it is a degree that not only teaches you analytical skills, but more importantly, even if I had no interest in ever practicing law, it was a good degree to have. I could use it in many arenas. So I started speaking to people in the business community, and my friends and family, and I decided  that it’s just a great degree to have in terms of teaching you discipline and analytical skills. I wanted to stay in New Mexico so I applied to and went to the University of New Mexico Law School. Continue reading

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