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Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Indicted District Judge Off the Bench
By Mike Gallagher
Journal Investigative Reporter
District Judge Mike T. Murphy of Las Cruces was suspended by the state Supreme Court on Monday after his Friday indictment on felony charges of bribery, criminal solicitation and intimidation of a witness.
The court took the action in response to a second petition from the Judicial Standards Commission requesting his suspension.
Murphy was suspended without pay.
Chief Justice Charles W. Daniels and Justices Patricio Serna, Richard Bosson and Edward Chavez agreed to the order. Justice Petra Jimenez Maes recused herself from the case.
The court also appointed a new judge to hear Murphy's post-indictment case.
Retired U.S. Magistrate Judge Leslie Smith was appointed Monday.
He replaces Silver City District Judge J.C. Robinson, who handled the pre-indictment proceedings. Those proceedings were closed to the public.
Murphy was charged in an indictment filed Friday evening with two counts of bribery, one count of intimidation of a witness and one count of criminal solicitation.
The charges stem from an investigation by a special prosecutor about whether Murphy made political contributions to a local political figure for his judicial appointment.
He also, according to investigative reports, is alleged to have told a prospective judicial candidate that she needed to make weekly payments to the same political figure to secure an appointment to the bench.
Last month, the Judicial Standards Commission recommended in a sealed petition that the Supreme Court immediately suspend Murphy temporarily. But the court, in a one-page order, declined to suspend Murphy at that time and returned sealed documents about the case to the commission.
Also on Monday, Gov. Susana Martinez said the indictment of a sitting judge on charges that he paid bribes for his judicial appointment and solicited bribes from another judicial candidate is "deeply troubling."
Last fall, then-Doña Ana County District Attorney Martinez asked Clovis District Attorney Matt Chandler to take over the investigation into Murphy.
Chandler announced the indictment Friday.
Journal staff writer Rene Romo in Las Cruces contributed to this report.