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Thursday, March 13, 2008
Judge Griego Is Removed From Bench
By Trip Jennings
Journal Capitol Bureau
SANTA FE A Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court judge who fixed two dozen traffic tickets for family members, friends and co-workers was removed from the bench Wednesday by the state Supreme Court.
The state's highest court chose a harsher punishment than the Judicial Standards Commission, which recommended that Judge J. Wayne Griego be suspended without pay for 90 days and reprimanded for ticket-fixing.
Griego, who has been on the Metro Court bench for almost five years, declined comment after the hearing.
Report & recommendation for discipline for Judge Griego by the N.M. Judicial Standards Commission pdf download
Journal editorial: Griego's Conduct Hurts All Judges Feb. 25, 2008 editorial
Metro Judge May Face Suspension Feb. 21, 2008 story
Metro Judge Reprimanded June 15, 2007 story
Court Reprimands Judge for Rubber-Stamping Traffic Cases June 14, 2007 story
Judge Suspends Secretary Feb. 20, 2007 story
"There is no appeal," said his lawyer, Timothy Padilla. "That's the end of it."
Padilla said Griego likely would return to private law practice.
Griego fixed 24 traffic tickets for family members, friends, and his staff members' relatives over a period of about three years, the commission's executive director, James Noel, said he told the court Wednesday.
But what troubled the justices during a hearing was the commission's finding that Griego was "not completely forthcoming in his testimony" and that some of his testimony "was not deemed credible."
Chief Justice Edward Chavez asked how, under those circumstances, the court could restore Griego to the bench particularly since some of the misconduct occurred after Griego already was under scrutiny by the commission because of earlier problems.
"Isn't the commission copping out here?" said Justice Richard Bosson, referring to the proposed 90-day suspension. "What are they thinking?"
The Supreme Court was unanimous in the order removing Griego from the bench. Justice Charles W. Daniels recused himself, the order said.
The commission's findings involving the fixed traffic citations came three years after Griego was reprimanded by the Supreme Court for directing his secretary to sign off on traffic case plea agreements when he was delayed returning home from a vacation.
A Journal call to Padilla after the hearing Wednesday was not immediately returned.
Chief Metropolitan Judge Judith Nakamura had no comment on the case Wednesday but planned to address it today in Albuquerque, said court spokeswoman Janet Blair.
The Judicial Standards Commission is empowered to investigate the state's judges and recommend discipline, but the Supreme Court has the final say.
The commission conducted a three-day trial into its findings in late January. After hearing from 26 witnesses, the commission concluded that Griego merited discipline for violating provisions of the New Mexico Code of Judicial Conduct and for willful misconduct in office.
Gov. Bill Richardson appointed Griego to the bench in January 2003, Richardson's first month as governor.
The court last ordered a judge removed in late 2006, when Doña Ana County Magistrate Carlos Garza was banned from the bench after the commission said he had tested positive for cocaine.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.