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Nakamura is new chief justice of the NM Supreme Court

HIGH-FIVE TO THE CHIEF: Chief Justice Judith Nakamura high-fives Justice Edward Chavez on Wednesday after speaking to a roomful of New Mexico judges during her swearing-in ceremony at the Marriott Pyramid. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The new chief justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court said Wednesday she is committed to cultivating collegiality in the judiciary and to ensuring the court system is operating efficiently.

Chief Justice Judith Nakamura was sworn in at the annual Judicial Conclave in Albuquerque on Wednesday. Nakamura replaces Justice Charles Daniels, who announced in January that he would step down from the post after the legislative session.

Nakamura was elected chief justice by her colleagues.

Supreme Court Justice Charles Daniels administers the oath of office to incoming Chief Justice Judith Nakamura. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

As she took the podium to address a room filled with judges from across the state, she said the courts are in a transitional period that will require cooperation. While she said she will continue to advocate for full funding of the courts, she said the future will require “the courage to take a hard look at how we operate and an openness to new ways of doing things.”


New Chief Justice Judith Nakamura, center, slams a gavel received as a gift Wednesday as she was sworn-in. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

“We need to be able to tell the public and our community,” she said, “that we are doing the best we can with the resources we have.”

Before she was sworn in, justices took turns complimenting Daniels’ work and offering messages of encouragement and support to Nakamura, the court’s newest justice.

Justice Barbara Vigil commended Daniels’ work with the Legislature to fund the judiciary in a time of diminishing resources.

She also praised his dedication to bail reform efforts, which she said “resulted in a Constitutional amendment that essentially, in my view, is perhaps the most significant improvement in our justice system in the history of the state of New Mexico.”

Nakamura was appointed to the Supreme Court in November 2015 and elected in 2016. She was elected to the Metropolitan Court in 1998 and served as its chief judge for more than a decade before moving to the 2nd Judicial District Court.

According to the Administrative Office of the Courts, the chief justice presides over Supreme Court hearings and serves as administrator over personnel, budget and general operations of the state courts. Daniels said the position in recent decades has rotated every two years among justices.