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 into office on January 1. On December 2, the Governor’s office released the names of 10 attorneys who applied for the appointment. On December 12, the deadline for attorneys to file applications was extended to Friday, December 23. No explanation was given for the extension of time for applications.
FOUR ADDITIONAL APPLICANTS
On December 28, it was reported that 4 additional applications have filed for the appointment bringing the total number of applicants to 14. According to Nora Meyers Sackett, spokeswoman for the Governor’s Office “Interviews are taking place and an appointment will be made expeditiously.”
The 4 additional applicants are:
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander Flores. Flores is a native of Albuquerque and a 2004 graduate of Albuquerque Academy. He is a 2013 graduate of UNM School of Law, a 2010 graduate of Princeton University with a Masters Degree in Public Affairs, a 2008 graduate of George Washington University with a BA Degree in Public Policy, and a 2006 graduate of McCalister College with a BA in Political Science and American Studies. For over 10 years he served in the United States Marine Corp where his service included operational and international law service for the Marine Corps and prosecuted general and special courts-martials for the Marine Corps and prosecuted a full range of criminal cases including murder, rape, child-sexual abuse and assault, financial crimes, drug offenses, and aggravated assault with a critical emphasis on both special victims and high-visibility cases. Flores has been Assistant United States Attorney for New Mexico since February, 2020.
Brianne Bigej, general counsel for the New Mexico Department of Corrections. Biegei has been General Counsel for the Department of Corrections since June, 2020. She is a 2012 graduate of UNM Law School and has a Masters of Arts Degree from UNM and a BA degree from New Mexico State. From 2017 to 2020, she was with Second Judicial District Attorney’s Office and served in the Special Proceedings Division and in the Major Crimes/Violent Crimes Division. From May, 2018 to February 2019, she served as and Assistant Attorney General in the Special Prosecutions Division. From June 2013 to Nov 2017, she served as an Assistant Trial Attorney in the Second Judicial District Attorney’s Office serving in the Special Victims Unit/Crimes Against Children, the Community Crimes Division and the Metropolitan Court Division.
Matthias Swonger, supervising attorney for the New Mexico Public Defenders Offices. Swonger has been with the New Mexico Public Defenders Office for close to 11 years and currently serves in the felony division. He is a 2010 graduate of the New York University School of Law and 2006 graduate of the University of Rhode Island with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Litature.
Private Attorney and former prosecutor Steven S. Suttle. Suttle worked for 14 years in the Attorney General’s Office before retiring in 2010. Steven Suttle was an elected district attorney in Oklahoma before moving to New Mexico to become a prosecutor in the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque in 1991. He has served as an Assistant Attorney General under Attorney Generals Gary King, Patricia Madrid and Tom Udall.
The link to the news source is here:
The 10 previous applicants are as follows:
Sam Bregman, a former Democratic Party State Chairman. He is a respected trial attorney who manages his own private law firm. Bregman currently serves on the New Mexico Gaming Commission. His has trial experience in both civil and criminal defense and he has handled high profile criminal defense cases. including defending former APD Officer Dominic Perez who was one of 2 APD SWAT Officers who shot and killed homeless camper James Boyd in the Sandia Foothills. He served as an Assistant Bernalillo County District Attorney from 1994 through 1997. Bregman was an elected Albuquerque City Council from 1995 until 1999 and has a served as Deputy State Auditor for the State of New Mexico. Bregman unsuccessfully ran for Commissioner of Public Lands and Mayor of Albuquerque. Sources have confirmed that Bregman is making a serious run for the Governor’s appointment and has been making calls to secure support within the defense bar and the Democratic party.
Damon Martinez, a former United States Attorney for New Mexico. From 2000 to 2013, Martinez was an Assistant United State Attorney. In 2014, he was appointed United States Attorney by President Barack Obama and unanimously confirmed in the United States Senate in 2014. Martinez led the US Attorney’s Office during the Department of Justice’s investigation and settlement agreement with the city of Albuquerque over the Albuquerque Police Department when the Department of Justice found excessive use of deadly force and a culture of aggression within APD. On March 11, 2017 Martinez resigned as US Attorney and went into private practice. In 2018, Martinez was an unsuccessful candidate for the First Congressional District to replace Michelle Lujan Grisham. Martinez is currently an Albuquerque Deputy City Attorney who works as APD’s Chief Policy Advisor and on legislative matters for Mayor Tim Keller and the city and lobbies in Santa Fe during legislative sessions.
Private Attorney Ed Perea, a retired APD Police Commander. Perea became an attorney after 24 years of service as police officer. Perea ran for District Attorney against Raúl Torrez in 2016. Perea has served as a Special Assistant Prosecutor in the 13th District. He’s also served as Executive Director of the Center for Law, Policy and Public Safety and has taught at CNM.
Joseph Gandert, a private Albuquerque attorney. Gandert is a native New Mexican and has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1977. He is a seasoned trial attorney. He was with the New Mexico Public Defenders Office for 13 years and headed the Juvenile Division. He was with the Federal Public defenders office for 20 plus years. Mr. Gandert is now in the private practice of law and works with his son’s law practice.
Joseph Gribble, an Albuquerque attorney. Gribble is a 1977 graduate of University of New Mexico law school. Mr. Gribble has extensive experience in criminal and civil litigation and he lists his areas of practice to include Federal and State Criminal Defense work, Commercial Litigation, Civil Litigation, Medical Malpractice, Wrongful Death and Employment Law. Mr. Gribble started his career in the District Attorneys Office where his work resulted in the successful prosecution and death sentence of a serial killer. Upon leaving the District Attorney’s Office as a Deputy District Attorney he settled into his current private practice. Mr. Gribble has handled hundreds of criminal cases throughout the State of New Mexico and in all jurisdictions, including by not limited to metropolitan, magistrate, district, tribal and federal courts.
Evan Cochnar, is a 2006 graduate of the University of New Mexico where he earned a B.A. in International Relations, Political Science and History. He is a 2009 graduate of Syracuse University College of Law. He has served as an Assistant District Attorney in the 11th Judicial District from 2011 to 2020. He currently works for the New Mexico Risk Management Division.
Assistant Attorney General Ashley Schweizer. Schweizer was appointed an Assistant Attorney General by Attorney General Hector Balderas. She is currently handling the prosecution of serial shoplifter Isaiah Martinez who is responsible for stealing nearly $60,000 worth of designer sunglasses and has been charged with 21 counts related to his brazen crime spree, as well as conspiracy and aggravated assault. She is also one of the prosecutors handling the prosecution of former Maintenance Technician/Detention Officer Nathan D. Sena. Sena was employed by the GEO Group, Inc. and was a detention officer for a New Mexico Women’s Recovery Academy treatment facility. It is alleged he preyed upon women under his control at the facility and engaged in multiple sexual acts, which resulted in eight charges of criminal sexual penetration as a person in a position of authority.
Bernalillo County Deputy District Attorney Josh Boone who was appointed by Raul Torrez to oversees the Metropolitan Division. Boone earned his B.A. in political science from the University of New Mexico in 2000, and his law degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 2004. In 2014, Boone was a candidate for the 2nd Judicial District Court in New Mexico. He ran for election to the Bernalillo Metropolitan Court, but lost the 2014 primary. Boone has developed and posted on the internet a website entitled “Joshua Boone for District Attorney” thereby making him an announced candidate to run in 2025. The website is a slick campaign web site for a candidate for office. The link to the Josh Boone for District Attorney web page is boonefornewmexico.com.
Bernalillo County Deputy District Attorney John Duran, who oversees the District Attorneys’ Major Crimes Division. From 2003 to 2013 John Duran was a Bernalillo County Assistant District Attorney. From 2013 to 2016 he was a Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court Judge. He was appointed to Division 8 of the Metro court on March 28, 2013, by Governor Susana Martinez (R). He was defeated in his bid for re-election in November 2014 but was reappointed to Division 3 on the court soon after. He ran for election in 2016 but was defeated in the primary on June 7, 2016. Duran filed as a Democratic candidate in 2016, but he ran as a Republican in 2014.
Bernalillo County Deputy District Attorney Diana Garcia who oversees the DA’s Juvenile Division. She has been with office for 16 years. (No further information could be found.)
The link to the Albuquerque Journal article is here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
One thing is for certain, the Governor is cutting it awfully close with making the appointment seeing as the vacancy will occur come January 1 when Raul Torrez is sworn into office as New Mexico Attorney General.
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 14 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.