New Mexico governor appoints judge to court of appeals

U.S. Supreme Court News

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has appointed a judge to the state Court of Appeals to fill a vacancy created by Justice Julie J. Vargas’ appointment to the state Supreme Court.

The state’s 4th Judicial District Chief Judge Gerald E. Baca was appointed to the New Mexico Court of Appeals on Friday.

“Judge Baca has extensive experience on all sides of criminal and civil litigation as well as a diverse and rigorous background on the bench,” said Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, in a statement. “Our state Court of Appeals will greatly benefit from his decades of judicious and exemplary practice as an attorney and jurist.”

Baca, a New Mexico native, has presided over criminal cases in the district court that serves the counties of Guadalupe, Mora and San Miguel since 2013.

“I’m so excited and looking forward to doing this work,” Baca said. “But at the same time, a little saddened because I’ve been here in my hometown serving my community. It’s hard to leave hoping that I’ve done a good job but looking forward to being able to do good things for the people of New Mexico and the Court of Appeals.”

Baca, 59, will now be one of 10 judges tasked with reviewing appeals from the state’s lower courts.

New Mexico Court of Appeals judges serve eight-year terms and must be retained by at least 57% of voters at the end of each term, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

Baca, a registered Democrat, will have to win the 2022 primary and general elections to remain on the Court of Appeals, the newspaper reported. This is Baca’s third gubernatorial appointment.

Former Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson appointed Baca to the 4th Judicial District seat in 2007. Baca then lost his job in an election the following year.

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AAA weighs in on the evidence being used to convict drivers of DUI marijuana.

Six states that allow marijuana use have legal tests to determine driving while impaired by the drug that have no scientific basis, according to a study by the nation’s largest automobile club that calls for scrapping those laws.

The study commissioned by AAA’s safety foundation said it’s not possible to set a blood-test threshold for THC, the chemical in marijuana that makes people high, that can reliably determine impairment. Yet the laws in five of the six states automatically presume a driver guilty if that person tests higher than the limit, and not guilty if it’s lower.

As a result, drivers who are unsafe may be going free while others may be wrongly convicted, the foundation said. The foundation recommends replacing the laws with ones that rely on specially trained police officers to determine if a driver is impaired, backed up by a test for the presence of THC rather than a specific threshold. The officers are supposed to screen for dozens of indicators of drug use, from pupil dilation and tongue colour to behaviour.