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          Front Page  news  state

Judge Is Re-Elected, Then Barred for Life

By Rene Romo
Journal Southern Bureau
    LAS CRUCES— One day after voters re-elected Magistrate Judge Carlos Garza to a second term on the bench, the state Supreme Court permanently barred him from judicial office.
    On Tuesday, the 43-year-old former Mesilla trustee and Doña Ana County commissioner received 23,532 votes as he ran unopposed for a second four-year term as magistrate judge.
    A day later, the Supreme Court granted the Judicial Standards Commission's request to permanently remove Garza from office for testing positive for cocaine, failing to comply with a commission order and other judicial misconduct.
    Garza said Thursday that he was relieved to have the whole affair behind him but disgusted at what he said was unfair treatment in proceedings before the Judicial Standards Commission and the Supreme Court.
    "I truly have never, ever seen anything like this in my life," he said.
    But Garza added: "I'm excited about being involved in private enterprise. The pay is certainly better than I made for them, and I can choose the people that I work with. That makes me very happy."
    According to the petition from the Judicial Standards Commission, hair samples Garza provided to labs on Sept. 20 and Sept. 22 tested positive for cocaine.
    Garza asserted the tests were not conclusive and argued that positive results could have been caused by passive exposure to cocaine residue.
    The Judicial Standards Commission staff, including general counsel James Noel and staff attorney Elizabeth Garcia, harshly criticized Garza in documents filed with the Supreme Court.
    The commission's staff said that Garza showed a "lack of accountability," a "lack of candor," had engaged in "unceasing attempts to distance himself from his actions" and was "fundamentally unsuited for judicial service."
    Garza was suspended without pay from his post for 30 days on Sept. 20 for failing to comply with an Aug. 17 order from the Judicial Standards Commission to undergo a drug test. The commission also alleged that Garza evaded a law enforcement officer who had tried to serve him with the order to undergo testing.
    Garza complained that "rumors" formed the basis for the order requiring his drug tests.
    The commission also alleged that Garza attempted to intimidate a Mesilla deputy while he was a passenger in a vehicle driven by a woman stopped for speeding in February 2006. During the traffic stop, Garza allegedly leaned toward the deputy and asked: "Do you know who I am?"
    Garza said he was embarrassed at the time of the episode and was not trying to intimidate the officer.

E-MAIL writer Rene Romo