Grubesic and Cindy Leos face each other in the race for 2nd Judicial District Court. The winner will seek to unseat David Williams, a Republican former prosecutor appointed by Gov. Susana Martinez to a vacancy in the court’s criminal division.
One attorney called Grubesic’s action “shameful.”
Jeff Buckels, who heads the capital crimes unit of the public defender office, said the flier is “misleading in suggesting that it is inappropriate for criminal defense lawyers to defend people accused of horrific behavior.” He recalled a speech by now-retired Supreme Court Justice Richard Bosson comparing the system to a three-legged stool in which all three legs must function for justice to be served.
Grubesic, who served a term in the state Senate representing Santa Fe, compares his record to that of Leos, who spent almost five years working for the Law Office of the Public Defender in Albuquerque and is now in private practice representing indigent clients on a contract.
Under the headline “Fighting for You,” Grubesic’s flier cites his experience as assistant attorney general and as an assistant district attorney who “successfully prosecuted felonies in Santa Fe, Los Alamos and Rio Arriba counties.”
In the opposite column, under Cindy Leos, a headline identifies Leos as the attorney for Andrew Romero and reminds readers that he is the “man accused of killing Rio Rancho officer Gregg Benner.”
Neither Grubesic’s flier nor responses to a Journal questionnaire mentions his own work as a contract public defender from 2011 to Sept. 29, 2015, when he ended his contract.
During that period, he billed the office more than $531,000, including gross receipts tax, according to figures released to the Journal under the Inspection of Public Records Act.
In fiscal year 2012, he billed just shy of $150,000.
Leos worked for the Children, Youth and Families Department and then the public defender office until opening a private practice in 2014. Her defender contract includes representing defendants accused of murder. In 2015, she billed just over $150,000 for her representation.
“In (Grubesic’s) view, as expressed in his campaign flier, representing citizens accused of crime somehow disqualifies one from being a judge, especially if the crime charged is high profile and emotionally charged,” Darrell Allen said in a letter to the Journal. “He is willing to trade popular enmity towards an unpopular criminal defendant for votes, and in doing so to trash an honorable citizen doing her job.”
The Grubesic flier is also critical of Leos for challenging the validity of the signatures on his petition. After a district judge denied her petition to remove him from the ballot, she appealed to the Supreme Court, and again lost. The flier says Leos “tried to use the legal system to get John off the ballot, taking away your right to vote!”
Grubesic, who now works for a multistate law firm handling debt collection, did not respond to requests for comment from the Journal.
State rules for judicial candidates say they are required to “review and approve the content of all non-financial campaign statements and materials produced by the candidate or his or her campaign committee.”
It also says candidates “shall not misrepresent the candidate’s or the candidate’s opponent’s identity, qualifications, present position or other material fact.”