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NM chief justice to step down after legislative session

New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Daniels announced Thursday that he will be stepping down as chief justice after this legislative session.

It was a surprise announcement he tagged on the end of an hour-long presentation to legislators explaining the grim financial situation the state’s judicial system is in.

“Our judicial system is in crisis,” Daniels told representatives and senators, along with fellow justices and judges from across the state, in his State of the Judiciary speech.

He said funding is so dire that the state will run out of money to pay for jury trials starting in March and there are several districts that are unable to prosecute crimes because of a lack of funding for public defenders — all clear violations of state and federal constitutions.

Daniels said the situation keeps him up at night.

But despite the dramatic funding issue, he told legislators that the judiciary is making progress for citizens of the state and he plans to stay on the court for another two to four years to see some of the progress through, namely last year’s implementation of a bail amendment that changes how judges can release defendants pending trial.

Newly-elected Justice Judith Nakamura is the next in line for the post, based on the rotating schedule among the justices. Daniels’ post would have ended in 2018.