Governor Extends Application Time For Bernalillo County District Attorney; Vacancy To Be Filled After January 1; Appointment Of Interim District Attorney Will Be Required

On November 16  Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office announced it was  accepting applications to fill the vacancy of Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez who was elected Attorney General on November 8 and who will be  is sworn in January 1.  Lujan Grisham plans to appoint a replacement to serve the remaining 2 years of Torrez’s 4 year term which expires on January 1, 2024.  Applications for the post were due by December 2.

On December 2, the Governor’s office released the names of 10 attorneys who  applied for the appointment.  The 10 attorneys who applied for the appointment were:

  1. Private Attorney Sam Bregman, a former Democratic Party State Chairman, a respected trial attorney who manages his own private law firm. 
  2. Deputy City Attorney Damon Martinez, a former United States Attorney for New Mexico.
  3. Private Attorney Ed Perea, a retired APD  Police Commander who is now in private practice.
  4. Private Attorney Joseph Gandert, an attorney who retired from the Federal Public defenders office after 20 plus years.
  5. Private Attorney Joseph Gribble, a 1977 graduate of UNM and an Albuquerque trial attorney with extensive experience in criminal defense and civil litigation.
  6. Evan Cochnar who has served as an Assistant District Attorney in the 11th Judicial District from 2011 to 2020 and who currently works for the New Mexico Risk Management Division.
  7. Assistant Attorney General Ashley Schweizer.
  8. Bernalillo County Deputy District Attorney Josh Boone who oversees the Metropolitan Division.
  9. Bernalillo County Deputy District Attorney John Duran who is a former Metro Judge and  who oversees the District Attorneys’ Major Crimes Division.
  10.   Bernalillo County Deputy District Attorney Diana Garcia who oversees the  the  DA’s Juvenile Division and who  has been with office for 16 years.

Sources have confirmed that interviews of the 10 applicants were scheduled to have commenced on December 19 and were to have  been conducted by Governor Lujan Grisham personally along with her General Council.  Sources confirmed that an appointment of an new District Attorney  was to have been announced the week of December 26.


On December 12, it was reported that Governor Lujan Grisham has extended the deadline for attorneys to file applications to Friday, December 23.  No explanation was given for the extension of time for applications. Confidential sources have confirmed that all interviews that were originally scheduled for the week of December 19 have been cancelled and rescheduled.  The interviews have now been changed to the week of January 2, 2023.


The extension of the application process took  a number of people within the New Mexico Bar as well as the politcal observers by total surprise.  It has resulted in speculation that Governor Lujan Grisham was not at all satisfied with the applicant pool or that more than a few who had applied withdrew their applications reducing the pool.

Amongst political observers of the process, it was said that one applicant in particular had the “inside track” on the appointment because of his politcal connections and association with the Governor.  It was also said that the  appointment was his for the asking.  If that was the case, why bother to ask for more applications?  No one knows for certain what resulted once the names of applicants  were released nor who actively lobbied for or who actively lobbied against any one of the applicants.

One thing that is for certain is that there will be no new Bernalillo County District Attorney come January 1 when Raul Torrez is sworn into office as the next Attorney General. Torrez will have to resign in order for the Governor to make the appointment, and without an appointed successor, and “Interim District Attorney” will have to be appointed by Torrez to take over for him until the Governor makes a decision on a replacement.

Given the Albuquerque’s  spiking violent crime and murder rates, the appointment of a new Bernalillo County District Attorney is one of the most consequential appointments the Governor will ever make. There is very little room for error on the appointment which is likely one of the biggest reasons for extending the application deadline and seeking to increase the pool of applicants.

Great work experience and academic qualifications for the job does not necessarily make a person a good fit for an elected position such as District Attorney which is as high profile as they come.  Each one of the 10 applicants possesses positive and negative skill sets and different types of qualifications for the job.  In other words, there is no one perfect candidate suited for the job who has applied, but that is usually the case with any elected or appointed politcal position.

The next Bernalillo County District Attorney needs to have strong prosecutorial and case management experience, personnel management experience, be a proven trial attorney, have the ability to work well with all stakeholders within the criminal justice system, including the courts, the defense bar, law enforcement and the legislature and be an effective leader who can attract attorneys to work for the office.

This is one appointment where politics and higher ambitions for office should absolutely not play any role. What should play a role is a real commitment to the office and the criminal justice system itself.  The Governor needs to appoint one who she feels is the most qualified candidate, not the most political.  If the Governor did in fact have reservations about any of those who have applied and she was not fully satisfied with the applicant pool, it was right for her to increase the time for which to apply and ask for more applicants.

Applications may be sent via e-mail to An application may be downloaded here.


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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.