SANTA FE — A former state Supreme Court justice who has worked as a lawyer for Republican Gov. Susana Martinez is seeking an interim appointment to New Mexico’s highest court.
Former Justice Paul Kennedy of Albuquerque is among three lawyers who have applied to a judicial nominating commission for a vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Patricio Serna.
The others are Santa Fe lawyer Paul D. Mannick and Steven Suttle of Albuquerque, a retired prosecutor who worked for 14 years in the Attorney General’s Office.
It will be Martinez’s first opportunity to make an appointment to the five-member Supreme Court, but her selection probably will serve only a few months until the winner of the November general election takes over.
Kennedy, who has been among the attorneys representing Martinez in lawsuits over redistricting the Legislature and Congress, was the GOP nominee for state attorney general in 1982.
He already has been an interim member of the Supreme Court: Former GOP Gov. Gary Johnson named him to temporarily fill a vacancy, and he served from September until late December of 2002.
The nominating commission meets Aug. 7 to screen the applicants and will recommend candidates to the governor.
The timing of Serna’s retirement limits the tenure of the GOP governor’s appointee. No Republican has won election to the Supreme Court since 1980.
After a governor appoints someone to a state court, the judge is required to run in a partisan election in the next general election, then face periodic nonpartisan retention elections.
Serna is retiring at the end of August, and the Supreme Court vacancy occurred too late for candidates to run in the June primary election. Instead, state central committees of political parties will select nominees to run in the November general election.
Democrats meet Aug. 25, and a party spokesman said the candidates thus far are former U.S. Attorney John Kelly; 1st Judicial District Chief Judge Barbara Vigil; Albuquerque lawyer and former Supreme Court judicial clerk Michelle Hernandez; Indian law specialist and Democratic Party activist Cate Stetson; and workers’ compensation judge and former Court of Appeals candidate Victor Lopez.
No date has been set for the GOP central committee meeting.
The winner in November will serve the rest of Serna’s term, through 2016, and then be subject to a nonpartisan retention election every eight years.
Kennedy said Tuesday that he hasn’t decided whether he’ll seek the GOP nomination in the general election. Suttle said he was interested only in an interim appointment. Mannick did not return a telephone message left at his office on Tuesday.
Journal staff writer Deborah Baker contributed to this report.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal