Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal
Corrales Municipal Judge Luis Quintana has no plans to leave the bench despite having been disbarred by the New Mexico Supreme Court in July.
Because municipal judges in New Mexico don’t have to be attorneys, Quintana said his disbarment is unrelated to his position as judge and he sees no reason he can’t complete the remainder of his term, which ends in 2016.
According to state Disciplinary Board documents, the complaint against Quintana that resulted in his disbarment was filed in November 2013 by one of his clients, Maria Ramos. She said Quintana received a $4,500 settlement check in her workers’ compensation case, which he failed to turn over to her.
A Disciplinary Board hearing committee wrote in its findings that Quintana used Ramos’ settlement to pay debts owed to other clients.
The Supreme Court issued an order May 11 approving the Disciplinary Board’s recommendation for discipline and permanently disbarring Quintana, effective July 1.
But Quintana told the Journal on Tuesday that the actions that resulted in the loss of his license took place before he was elected judge and have nothing to do with his ability to carry out his term.
“Are people going to be disappointed? Sure. I’m disappointed, too,” Quintana said. “I’m disappointed because I didn’t serve Ms. Ramos as great as I should have, you know. But that was one instance in 30 years.”
Though complaints that don’t result in formal charges are kept confidential, William Slease, chief disciplinary counsel for the Disciplinary Board, said Quintana received a formal reprimand in July 2005 when the board determined that he failed to adequately tell a client the fee he intended to charge, failed to cooperate with the investigation and failed to keep the client reasonably informed.
Meanwhile, Quintana is facing pressure to resign.
Village Councilor and former Mayor Phil Gasteyer said that many Corrales residents are concerned and he that he plans to ask for Quintana’s resignation.
“People like myself who are lawyers or retired lawyers are quite alarmed, not only that it happened, but that it’s taken several months for it to become public knowledge, and he’s continued to serve in the interim,” Gasteyer said. Because Quintana is an elected official, the council does not have the power to remove him from his position.
Gasteyer raised the issue at a Village Council meeting Tuesday. He said the group discussed the situation for about 13 minutes, before deciding to give Quintana a chance to address the council at a future meeting.
Quintana said he doesn’t think that he won election solely because he was a member of the State Bar and he doesn’t see any reason to resign.
“I won by three votes,” Quintana said about being elected in 2012. He narrowly beat Marilyn Hill, a former deputy state treasurer, who is not an attorney. “I don’t think it mattered to anybody whether I was an attorney or not. That wasn’t an issue at the time of the election.”
Municipal courts are permitted to handle petty misdemeanors, traffic violations, DWI cases, municipal ordinance violations, landlord and tenant disputes, torts and contract cases. Municipal court judges cannot preside over jury trials.
Mayor Scott Kominiak said that as far as he knows, most of his constituents either aren’t aware or aren’t bothered by the development, and that he hasn’t received complaints or comments.
Kominiak said he spoke with Quintana about the issue, and Quintana said that his disbarment was a private matter that had to do with his private law practice and said he intends to conduct business as usual.
“The analogy is that if I were to lose my job, would I be required to resign as mayor?” Kominiak asked.