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Deference to law commission stops guardian reforms cold

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Uniform Law Commission has powerful influence over the laws of the land, yet few people know about it. Established in 1892, all of its approximately 350 commissioners are lawyers who come from every state plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Every state and territory is a ULC signatory, but they are not obligated to accept the commission’s “best practices” work product.

ULC commissioners regularly debate legal issues, formulate new legal language and urge all states to accept the uniform set of laws they devise. There are more than 100 different committees within the commission tackling issues as diverse as real estate law and presidential electors to internet privacy and court-ordered guardianships.

It usually takes at least two years for a ULC committee to finish its work on an issue and present final language to the full commission for approval. Only then is the language transmitted to states for consideration.

The ULC committee on Guardianship and Protective Proceedings has been working on drafting new safeguards since April 2015 and expects final language to be ready for a full commission vote by July. Its proposed bill considers all types of potential guardianships, including those appointed for children and disabled or elderly people.

New Mexico is a faithful adherent to ULC recommendations, having signed on in 1908, even before statehood.

“New Mexico is one of our top-ranking states in terms of pure numbers of ULC acts adopted,” said the ULC’s Katie Robinson.

New Mexico’s delegation numbers 12. The New Mexico Legislative Council appoints four legislators and four other members of the state bar. The governor has two appointees, and the dean of the University of New Mexico law school has a seat.

There are rules requiring appointments from both major political parties, and any lawyer who has represented the state at the ULC for 20 years or more has a spot.

New Mexico’s commissioners include Reps. Zachary Cook, R-Ruidoso, and Antonio (Moe) Maestas, D-Albuquerque, and Sens. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, and William Payne, R-Albuquerque.

Other New Mexico commissioners include Raul E. Burciaga, John (Jack) Burton, Matthew Chandler, Robert Desiderio, Philip Larragoite, Patrick Rogers, Raymond G. Sanchez and Paula Tackett.

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