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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Victoria's Secret Take 2: Alligator Report On Suspended Judge, Plus: Weh Vs. Martinez News, And: Blaming The Pit Rule: Where's The Beef? 

Judge Grant
More today on just why ABQ Metro Court Judge Victoria Grant has been suspended with pay for three months by the state Judicial Standards Commission. The commission and the state Supreme Court refuse to tell the public why this is the case, so we are trying to get at the truth with the help of our Legal Beagles and Alligators. Yesterday one of them said Grant's suspension had something to do with her dealings with defense attorneys. Today we get more detail on that angle:

A person is only allowed to be sentenced to 365 days in the county jail. If sentenced to a longer stay the person must go to actual prison. The complaint that I heard about Judge Grant was that she was not subtracting time served from the final sentencing.

A defendant had spent 340 days in jail prior to his sentencing. He was then sentenced by Judge Grant to an additional 365 days in jail on top of his 340 days already served. He appealed his sentencing to the Court of Appeals and they overruled Grant's decision and sent the case back to her. This time, she sentenced him to 364 days and on the record made this comment to the attorney: "I hope you learned to never challenge one of my sentencing decisions."

This is the case that she was suspended for. However, statistically speaking, 6% of all inmates in Bernalillo County have been sentenced by Judge Grant. That is more than any other judge in the county.

And another reader reports:

I can tell you that word around the campfire is that Judge Grant has already packed up her office and will take retirement rather than face the music.


We can't independently verify these reports because the state is playing mum. But we trust our Alligators to get at the truth as the journalists are bound and gagged by the state because of the newspapers "on the record" rule.

We went through this with the group of political appointees the governor says he dismissed to help balance the state budget but refused to release their names. We dubbed them "The Richardson 59." Our Gators revealed a bunch of them here, but the list of 59 has never been released by the state and the press has remain stymied. And this is the new era of transparency?

WEH VS. MARTINEZ

We know it's a five way GOP Guv race, but in reality this has become a two way contest between Allen Weh and Susana Martinez. The latest news is that Weh's TV buy for this week is at about $94,000, say our media mavens. Earlier we told you that Martinez has upped her buy from about $51,000 a week to about $83,000 a week. None of the three other candidates is on the tube in any significant way.

Insiders wonder why Weh isn't spending even heavier to put Martinez away. He outspent her by much more in the previous week. It reminds us of this from Jack Kennedy:

I have just received the following wire from my generous daddy: 'Dear Jack -- Don't buy a single vote more than is necessary -- I'll be damned if I'm going to pay for a landslide.'" (Address by Senator Kennedy before the Gridion Club, Washington, D.C., March 15, 1958.)

Susana's increased TV should help her in big Bernalillo County and the rest of the metro area. She is the only candidate not from this area and staying close to Weh here is essential. With anti-incumbent fever high, being a new face may help her, but Weh's money seems to be holding the fort for him--so far.

VANZI VS. MONTOYA

In her continued attempt to thwart Dennis Montoya in the North, NM Court of Appeals Court Judge Linda Vanzi has enlisted the support of former Governor and attorney Toney Anaya.

We must have wise judges sitting on this court who will navigate the law with integrity and honesty. Judge Vanzi is the right person for this job...

Vanzi, 53, has started to dump negative mail on primary challenger Montoya who she says has "a documented record of unethical behavior."

Vanzi supporters have been on the warpath against Montoya who represents a real threat to her incumbency in a two way primary in which perhaps half the vote will be cast by Hispanics. A minor irony to this is that by background Vanzi and Montoya are both civil rights attorneys.

Montoya supporters argue Vanzi's ethical charges against him are overinflated. They also are telling voters Vanzi is a "radical feminist" who will not represent the interests of the common man on the court.

IN THE PITS

The New Mexico oil and gas industry and the Republican candidates for governor continue to struggle for credibility when they blame the pit rule for discouraging oil and natural gas exploration. Take a look at this from the website of Apache Energy:

We expect to drill in excess of 200 new wells during 2010 and currently have five rigs running in the Permian Basin. Of the 200-plus wells expected to be drilled, 100 new wells will be drilled in New Mexico, which will represent the most wells drilled by Apache in the state in any year. Also, we’ve identified areas that can take advantage of horizontal well technology. The first of those wells is drilled and in the process of being completed.

The most wells ever drilled in a single year? Sounds like someone is busy. Yet we're continually told that the 2008 pit rule requiring specialized procedures to seal or remove drilling waste from new wells is driving the industry out of the state. If so, why is Apache doing more here than ever before?

The crash in oil and natural gas prices worldwide had everything to do with the slowdown in the state's energy industry. Where is the firm evidence that the pit rule is directly and wholly to blame for an energy company ceasing production in our state and costing us jobs? To our knowledge, none has been offered.

Smaller independent operators seem most concerned about the rule. The Independent Petroleum Association has been in the fore, claiming it is too expensive to implement. But a search of the group's website does not produce even one reference to the pit rule, the alleged harm it is doing nor any listing of companies that have been forced from the state.

As for the collapse in natural gas production in the Four Corners, it is caused by crashing prices, not the pit rule, according to Merrion Oil and Gas President T. Greg Merrion.

For us, it was just a matter of where is the opportunity? And we had opportunity in those shale plays in Pennsylvania.. A lot of people ask me (about regulations). I think they want me to say the reason we're doing business other than in New Mexico is because of the tough regulatory environment here..It is tough, but it's pretty tough everywhere. What has driven us and driven our investments more than regulatory environment is the opportunity.

GOP Guv candidate Susana Martinez says in her latest TV spot that "the pit rule killed jobs." Has she heard what Merrion said?

WHERE'S THE BEEF?

Will those in the industry bemoaning the pit rule or the GOP gubernatorial candidates asserting that it has cost us jobs provide us with the names of the companies that have pulled out of the state solely because of the pit rule? Will they provide us with the internal company communications to support any such claim? Will they provide us with the cost of implementing the rule? Actual invoices? Will they dispute that oil and gas exploration in the state continued to grow even after adoption of the pit rule, but declined when prices did the same?

The oil and gas industry has contributed mightily to the financial well-being of New Mexico, but the emotionalism and shoddy reasoning over the pit rule is chipping away at the goodwill the industry has earned since the first drill was sunk in the Permian Basin in the 1920's. Add in renewed environmental concerns sparked by the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and you have an industry here that is in danger of losing touch with the public that has been instrumental to their success.

THE BOTTOM LINES

From the ABQ Journal's "Speak Up"column:

I hear candidates for office say they will "run the state like a business." Which business will they run it like: Enron, Lehman brothers, Vaughan Realty?

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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