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Senate confirms Riggs for federal judge post

The United States Senate confirmed Judge Kea Whetzal Riggs, of Roswell, on Thursday by a vote of 94-0 to fill one of three vacancies on the federal court in New Mexico.

U.S. Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., sent Riggs’ name to President Donald J. Trump last year to replace U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo, who took inactive senior status in February 2018.

Trump sent Riggs’ name to the Senate earlier this year, and she was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last summer.

“We are pleased to congratulate Judge Riggs on her Senate confirmation, and we are glad that this vacancy will be filled,” Udall and Heinrich said in a statement. “Judge Riggs has a long record of distinguished service and is well qualified for this seat.”

Riggs received a “well qualified “recommendation from the majority of the American Bar Association committee that reviewed federal judicial nominees. The federal court in New Mexico is still short two of the seven full-time judicial slots approved by Congress for one of the busiest federal court districts in the country.

Federal judges have an average of more than 900 criminal cases and federal judges from other states have taken over some civil cases and are helping on criminal immigration cases in Las Cruces.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Sweazea of Las Cruces was also nominated for another vacant judgeship.

His nomination was never heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he pulled his name from consideration.

Udall and Heinrich said, “We will continue to work in good faith on a bipartisan basis to fulfill our Constitutional advice and consent responsibilities to ensure that New Mexico’s court system operates how it is supposed to – with unbiased judges, and speedy and fair trials.”

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