Well-known Albuquerque criminal defense and civil rights attorney Paul J. Kennedy, who also acted as special prosecutor seeking to impeach a sitting state treasurer, has been named to fill a vacancy on the New Mexico Supreme Court for the second time in his career.
Kennedy was appointed by then-Gov. Gary Johnson in 2002 to fill a vacancy on the court, but he did not seek election to the office.
Gov. Susana Martinez appointed him to the post Thursday, and this time Kennedy, a Republican, will be on the general election ballot for the position in November. He will face Judge Barbara Vigil of the 1st District Court in Santa Fe, who was nominated for the position by the Democratic Central Committee on Aug. 25.
The high court vacancy was due to the retirement of Justice Patricio Serna, effective Aug. 24.
Kennedy, 63, is a Philadelphia native and graduate of St. Joseph’s College and Georgetown University School of Law. He served in the Marines between undergraduate and law school in the early 1970s. After working for the state and federal public defender offices in New Mexico, he started his own solo practice and was joined later by the late Mary Han.
His wife, Pamela Kennedy, daughter Christin Kennedy, brother Joe Kennedy and sister-in-law Shannon Kennedy are all attorneys in Albuquerque. Kennedy, the oldest of 13 children, said five of his siblings are lawyers and four are married to lawyers.
He estimates having tried over 100 cases to a jury and handling more than 75 appeals.
“I have always believed that there should be substantial representation on the bench by experienced practitioners,” he said in the application to the Judicial Selection Commission. “(They) bring added perspective and dimension to the bench rooted in their close relationships with clients and their broad exposure to judges, juries and various court systems.”
The Kennedy & Han law firm was hired in 2005 by the bipartisan House special committee on impeachment of then-state treasurer Robert Vigil, who resigned before official impeachment proceedings and was later indicted by a federal grand jury.
He has also been a special prosecutor for the Judicial Standards Commission in 2008. He was the Republican nominee for attorney general in 1982, running unsuccessfully against Democratic nominee Paul Bardacke, and has worked for the state GOP and for individual candidates.
During Kennedy’s previous tenure on the court, he served with the now retired Serna, current Chief Justice Petra Maes, the late Pamela Minzner and the late Gene Franchini. Justice Richard Bosson took his place on the court after the general election.
Kennedy will be sworn in Monday morning and will immediately begin hearing oral argument – three cases are scheduled to be heard that day.
“I’m delighted to be back on the court,” he said Thursday. “I think I can be productive again, and I’m looking forward to helping the court with their very busy docket. ”
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal