Court: Judge abused discretion in Han case - Albuquerque Journal

Court: Judge abused discretion in Han case

Mary Han

The state Court of Appeals has overturned a district judge’s order requiring the state Office of the Medical Investigator to rule that the manner of a prominent Albuquerque attorney’s 2010 death was unknown.

The Court of Appeals’ ruling Monday said the judge abused his discretion by ordering the Office of the Medical Investigator to change its finding that lawyer Mary Han’s death was a suicide, as police believed.

Han’s family plans to appeal the ruling.

“For this family, the arc of the moral universe is indeed a long one, but we believe justice has always been on our side,” Diane Garrity, an attorney for the family, said in a statement. “We intend to ask the New Mexico Supreme Court to review this decision. We will continue to seek justice on Mary’s behalf.”

OMI praised the ruling.

“The Office of the Medical Investigator appreciates the decision of the New Mexico Court of Appeals that we believe upholds the law and reverses the lower court’s decision in this case,” spokesman Mark Rudi said in a statement. “Our commitment continues to be to investigate deaths to serve the living. Our thoughts are with the Han family as they continue to grieve the loss of their loved one.”

Han was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in a vehicle in her garage, and her estate argued that police violated state constitutional protections for Han as a crime victim when her death was investigated.

Then-1st Judicial District Judge David Thomson ruled, in part, that the Albuquerque Police Department’s investigation into Han’s death was so flawed that OMI couldn’t reach a conclusion of suicide and should make changes to her death certificate. Thomson, who is now serving on the state Supreme Court, said OMI’s conclusion was “arbitrary and capricious.”

But the appellate court said Thomson erred by granting the writ of mandamus ordering OMI to change the manner of death. Specifically, it held that writs of mandamus can be issued only to direct a government official to carry out a ministerial duty, a function that is required and that doesn’t involve discretion.

“This directive exceeded the proper bounds of mandamus because Respondent’s conclusion as to manner of death is not a ministerial act,” Judge Jacqueline R. Medina wrote in the opinion. “Rather, based on the record before us, we hold that it is an opinion reached through the exercise of discretion.”

The Appeals Court said other avenues besides mandamus exist to challenge administrative decisions for being arbitrary, an abuse of discretion or unsupported by substantial evidence. Judge Kristina Bogardus and Judge Pro Tempore Richard C. Bosson joined in the opinion.

The Appeals Court upheld Thomson’s ruling that Han’s family is not entitled to recover attorney fees.

Home » News » Albuquerque News » Court: Judge abused discretion in Han case

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories




Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages

 

Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
1
Grammer: What Rick Pitino to St. John's means for ...
ABQnews Seeker
Odds & ends around UNM hoops, ... Odds & ends around UNM hoops, including the status of next season's Iona game and an update on the first Lobo in the transfer ...
2
Volcano Vista's Alter commits to the University of the ...
ABQnews Seeker
Volcano Vista's 6-foot-9 Sean Alter, who ... Volcano Vista's 6-foot-9 Sean Alter, who was integral as the Hawks won their second straight Class 5A state basketball championship earlier this month, has ...
3
Kids connect with nature at ABQ BioPark’s spring break ...
ABQnews Seeker
Nearly 50 elementary school kids are ... Nearly 50 elementary school kids are spending all or some of the five days of their spring break visiting the attractions that make up ...
4
Prep notes: Schools making quick use of APS out-of-state ...
ABQnews Seeker
When Albuquerque Public Schools made it ... When Albuquerque Public Schools made it known they were opening the door for out-of-state travel for its spring sports programs this year, the La ...
5
Albuquerque Metro Championship finals delayed indefinitely
ABQnews Seeker
Neither the metro softball final between ... Neither the metro softball final between Volcano Vista and La Cueva, nor the baseball final at Rio Rancho between the Rams and La Cueva, ...
6
Photos: Rio Rancho take on La Cueva during the ...
ABQnews Seeker
7
Supreme Court seems split in Navajo Nation water rights ...
ABQnews Seeker
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court seemed split ... WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court seemed split Monday as it weighed a dispute involving the federal government and the Navajo Nation's quest for water from ...
8
Wind and scattered rainfall in store for Albuquerque this ...
ABQnews Seeker
Travellers should beware of dicey road ... Travellers should beware of dicey road conditions, particularly on the plains.
9
Four deaths in 24 hours: Details emerge in weekend ...
ABQnews Seeker
Police identify 3 of 4 homicide ... Police identify 3 of 4 homicide victims.