Justice Judith Nakamura’s skills at organizing were evident Friday afternoon at her ceremonial swearing-in.
Although it didn’t quite start on time for the perennially punctual Nakamura, she had family, friends and colleagues offer words and anecdotes and managed to pack the pilots’ pavilion at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta site for her formal investiture to the New Mexico Supreme Court.
Among the speakers was Gov. Susana Martinez, who appointed her, and whose past relationship with the judiciary can be described as prickly at best. Martinez noted her experience in Metro Court and on the chief judges council. “Perhaps mostly importantly, (she has) experience in criminal justice. She oversaw countless criminal cases. I know New Mexicans are concerned with rising crime and boomerang offenders,” the governor said.
Nakamura, who pilots a balloon called Bounce – so named, quipped her brother Steve Nakamura, for her propensity for bumpy landings – chose the unusual venue for a judicial event because of her love for the sport, a release from the often tense setting of a trial court.
Chief Justice Barbara Vigil said it was fitting that the court’s newest justice fills the seat of the late Justice Mary Walters, a transport pilot in World War II and the Korean conflict. Nakamura’s appointment makes the New Mexico Supreme Court majority women. Besides Vigil, she joins Justices Petra Jimenez Maes, Edward Chavez and Charles Daniels.