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Court: Grants mayor must follow health orders

Grants Mayor Martin Hicks

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Grants Mayor Martin “Modey” Hicks said he welcomed a court battle with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham when he defied her public health orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and allowed businesses in the town to open on April 27.

But Hicks came out on the losing side of a New Mexico Supreme Court order Thursday afternoon. The Supreme Court granted a writ against Hicks, prohibiting him from operating city facilities in defiance of state public health orders and prohibiting him from issuing directives that contradicted the orders. State Attorney General Hector Balderas sought the writ.

Hicks told the Journal he had not seen the court’s order.

“But if they are telling me I have to follow their health orders, they’re out of their freaking minds,” he said. “They are violating my constitutional rights.”

Balderas said he was “grateful to the Supreme Court for their affirmation that the Constitution and the laws of our state protect all New Mexicans during a pandemic emergency.”

And Nora Meyers Sackett, a spokeswoman for the governor, said in a statement the state’s emergency public health orders “are not and never were optional.”

“The outcome of this flagrant and dangerous attempt to violate those orders was never in doubt – and other repeat violators can expect a similar result,” she said.

Hicks encouraged businesses in the town of roughly 9,000 about an hour west of Albuquerque to open in defiance of the public health orders. He opened the golf course the city owns and was issued a notice of violation by State Police.

Hicks maintains what he did was legal and accused the court of violating his right to due process, and said the legal process “is not over.”

“I have yet to face my accusers,” he said. He said the court was “out of line.”

“And all of the justices need to be removed,” Hicks said.

The mayor accused Lujan Grisham of “killing my town” when she issued stay-at-home orders at the beginning of the outbreak in the state that allowed only businesses deemed essential to stay open. At one point, more than 80 businesses in the city were closed.

Hicks said state law required emergency orders to protect civil liberties and said the health orders did the opposite.

“Everything this lady has done violates our constitutional rights,” he said.

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