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Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Clippings From My Newsroom Floor: Matt Vs. Charlie, Arabs And The Spaceport, And Zach Cook Is Sleeping On The Couch 

Daniels & Chandler
We head to the reader email bag to cap the week. Let's start with some reader analysis of Matt vs. Charlie. That would be special prosecutor Matt Chandler and State Supreme Court Chief Justice Charlie Daniels. Daniels, a Democrat, this week refused to recuse himself from any matters that might come before him in the bribery case of Las Cruces District Judge Michael Murphy which Chandler, the 2010 GOP nominee for attorney general, is prosecuting. Our reader writes:

Quite apart from the legal aspects of the Murphy case, which I agree are tenuous and on uncertain ground, I do question whether all this supposed bad news for Mr. Chandler is really bad news for him, or if he could use it as part of his main message: that the legal system in New Mexico is as corrupt as the rest of the "system". I.e.: Chandler moves to have Justice Daniels recused because of an appearance of bias based on political views and campaign donations; Justice Daniels refuses to recuse himself; Chandler uses the refusal to further argue that the system is corrupt.


This is different from the legal ruling Justice Daniels made (which I think is correct) that proper procedure was not followed in asking for the recusal, but if this turns into a media/political fight, I'm not sure Justice Daniels comes out as unbloodied as most of the initial reactions have it.

Interesting analysis. The Murphy case is so bizarre and riddled with holes that speculation among the political insiders is that Chandler and his political adviser Jay McCleksey are convinced that throwing mud against the wall and seeing what sticks against the Democratic dominated NM judiciary will benefit Chandler politically. In other words, it is the process--the headlines and allegations generated--not the outcome in court that is the goal. Is Matt running for attorney general again? Will Jay be his media guru? These questions are seeming more and more relevant as the Murphy case descends into comic-tragedy.

We're trying to be fair here and have even previously pinpointed Chandler as a young rising star for the GOP, but when you look at this case it looks like it has more holes than the defensive line of the UNM football team.

Another footnote from the Legal Beagles. The Martinez administration is and will be doing war with the state's judiciary over its efforts to repeal and alter a variety of environmental and other regulations, Any weakening of the standing of the judiciary is seen as helping that cause.

Attorney Kim Chavez-Cook says our reader email on this needs clarification:

Your posting needs to correct your reader's mistaken statement: "the legal ruling Justice Daniels made (which I think is correct) that proper procedure was not followed in asking for the recusal."

The ruling said no such thing, but it is not surprising that an untrained reader could not sort out the lengthy opinion. The actual ruling was that recusal requires reasonable grounds based on actual facts, and Justice Daniels went to great lengths to identify how each of Chandler's allegations of impropriety could be easily proven wrong. As such, there was no basis for recusal. The reader's email makes it sound like Chandler's request was denied on a technicality, but may yet have had some merit to it. This is the opposite of what the ruling says.

For what it's worth, the opinion references a much earlier motion Chandler filed to have Justice Daniels reconsider his appointment of Judge Robinson to oversee the grand jury proceedings. This request was denied in part because it was an improper procedure for Chandler to ask Justice Daniels to remove Judge Robinson at that stage. The proper procedure at that time was to request Judge Robinson to recuse himself. However, the recent ruling from Daniels further clarifies that there would have been no grounds for that request either, as Justice Daniels had properly vetted Robinson's ability to oversee the grand jury before appointing him in the first place. In other words, Chandler's requests are consistently being denied as groundless and not due to some technical failure in making the requests.

CAMERAS EVERYWHERE

Reader Dan Otter comes with these observation:

Love the column. Thanks for banging the Spaceport drum. How about red light cameras at every ABQ intersection with proceeds to fund the reubuild of the Paseo de Norte-I-25 interchange? This just might make Dan Lewis's head explode!

City Councilor Lewis, also a GOP candidate for the ABQ congressional seat, is an ardent supporter of Paseo, but equally passionate in his opposition to the red light camera program.

ARABS IN SPACE

Its gone unnoticed, but there is a large Arab interest in New Mexico's Spaceport. Here's how:

Abu Dhabi investment company Aabar Investments has boosted its stake in Virgin Galactic, Virgin Group's commercial space line, to 37.8 per cent from 31.8 per cent, according to the prospectus for a planned bond sale by Aabar's parent company. Aabar, owned by Abu Dhabi's International Petroleum Investment Co (Ipic) invested an additional $110 million (Dh404 million) in Virgin Galactic in July, boosting its stake by six per cent, Ipic's preliminary bond prospectus seen by Zawya Dow Jones says.

Maybe someone should open up a nice Middle East restaurant near the Spaceport?

SUPER BOONDOGGLE?

First, this news:

The Martinez administration intends to seek six more months to make a decision on building a new state government supercomplex. While the state extends the purchase agreement contract it has in place to locate the government project south of Santa Fe in the area known as Las Soleras, officials said they are informally looking at another location as well.

Now, a reader's take:

I certainly hope that this "super boondoggle " finally is put out of its misery...It isn't needed or warranted in today's economic environment. It was a legacy project of Big Bill and it should just go away. Maybe the only reason its lasted this long is that in October of last year the developers held a fundraiser for then candidate Martinez. If she wants to separate herself from Big Bill the last thing she needs is to have this deal look like a payback for the developers fundraising efforts when it makes no economic sense at this time...

THE TANGLED WEB
Rep. Cook
Sometimes marriage and politics don't quite mesh. Here's an example from GOP State Rep. Zach Cook of Lincoln and Otero counties:

“The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Wednesday that I made a contribution to (Dem US Senate candidate) Hector Balderas. That contribution came from a joint checking account that I share with my wife, Angie. Angie went to law school with Mr. Balderas and they have remained friends over the years. Like many couples, my wife and I don't always agree on politics. Angie intended to make the contribution to the Balderas campaign solely in her name. For my part, I stand firmly behind (Republican) Heather Wilson for the U.S. Senate.”

Okay, Zach, you made your point. But how many nights on the couch does Angie give you for that one?

That's it for this week. Thanks for the company.

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