Biden to nominate Las Cruces attorney for federal judgeship

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Las Cruces civil rights and defense attorney Margaret Strickland will be nominated today to one of the two long vacant seats on the U.S. District Court in New Mexico by President Joe Biden.

Strickland, past president of the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, began her career working for the state Public Defenders office in 2006 and went into private practice in 2011.

The judgeship in Las Cruces has been vacant for more than 30 months and the judicial seat in Albuquerque has been open for more than 18 months.

Strickland is expected to be nominated for the seat in Las Cruces that has been open since U.S. District Judge Robert C. Brack took senior status.

Biden is expected to nominate 11 judges, including Strickland, to fill open seats around the country today.

Strickland is a partner in the law firm of McGraw & Strickland LLC in Las Cruces, and represents clients in civil rights and criminal cases.

In 2017, Strickland represented a woman and her family who claimed police used excessive force during her arrest, breaking her arm and nose. The woman and her family were awarded a $1.6 million verdict in federal court against several Las Cruces Police Department officers.

Former state District Judge Fernando Macias has known Strickland since she started practicing law in Las Cruces.

“I really feel that there is a great deal of community pride in her nomination to the federal bench,” Macias said. “She brings a great deal of enthusiasm and commitment to her representation of her clients. She is hardworking, but has not lost her idealism.”

Albuquerque attorney Randi McGinn said, “Strickland is somebody who has actually represented real people and not corporations.”

Strickland graduated from the University of Texas El Paso in 2003 and graduated from New York University School of Law in 2006.

She served as president of the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association from 2017 to 2019.

In the past few weeks, FBI agents have conducted background interviews of people in the legal community as part of the normal process of investigating potential nominees.

Last year, Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., withdrew their support for the nominations of First Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred J. Federici III and Albuquerque attorney Brenda Saiz, who had been nominated by President Donald Trump.

Their names had been part of a group of potential nominees submitted by Udall and Heinrich.

Udall and Heinrich withdrew their support in September pending the outcome of the November elections.

The federal court in New Mexico has long been one of the busiest in the country, and judges from other judicial districts come to the state to hear immigration cases and some civil cases to help ease the caseload on judges here.

The federal court in New Mexico was short three full-time judges until U.S. District Judge Kea W. Riggs was confirmed by the U.S. Senate and sworn in on Dec. 31, 2019.