ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A federal judge imposed sanctions on an attorney representing the state bail bond association for filing “frivolous” claims seeking damages from the state Supreme Court justices and others while challenging the system of pretrial release that virtually did away with monetary bail bonds for criminal defendants.
“While Plaintiffs’ counsel is entitled to express opinions regarding bail reform in New Mexico, plaintiffs are not entitled to file claims in a federal court without standing solely to achieve political objectives,” Senior U.S. District Judge Robert A. Junell ruled late this week.
Junell ruled that attorney A. Blair Dunn will have to pay attorney’s fees to the state Attorney General’s Office, which represented the members of the state Supreme Court, other state judges and court employees.
Dunn, who has said that he is running as a Libertarian for state Attorney General, has filed notice of an appeal of Junell’s ruling dismissing the original lawsuit and the ruling on sanctions.
The lawsuit was filed in July by the Bail Bond Association of New Mexico, a handful of state lawmakers, and a woman who spent five days at the Metropolitan Detention Center. The plaintiffs had sought an injunction to prevent courts from using the new Supreme Court rules, arguing that they were unconstitutional because “the availability of bail is enshrined in the Bill of Rights.”
The state Supreme Court adopted the rules in July to govern pretrial release and detention decisions.
The court rules carry out a constitutional amendment adopted by voters in 2016, which allows district court judges to lawfully hold felony defendants in jail before trial if they are shown to be too dangerous for release. The amendment also ensures that defendants who are not dangerous or a flight risk cannot be held in jail pretrial solely because they cannot afford a bail bond.
Although other attorneys’ names were attached to the civil lawsuit, only Dunn was singled out for sanctions and ordered to pay reasonable attorneys fees and court costs to the Attorney General’s Office.