Thursday, July 1, 2004
Brennan Officially Resigns
By Scott Sandlin
Journal Staff Writer
W. John Brennan, former Bernalillo County District Court chief judge, officially resigned Tuesday from the post he's held for 25 years in a brief letter to the New Mexico Supreme Court.
Brennan's resignation has not deterred the board charged with handling disciplinary action against judges from continuing with sanctions against him.
On Wednesday, the Judicial Standards Commission said it is "preserv(ing) its jurisdiction to continue its ongoing disciplinary proceedings."
Meanwhile, the Second Judicial District Nominating Commission, which will recommend candidates to replace Brennan, announced the vacancy and set a July 23 application deadline. Brennan's successor could be on the bench by September.
Brennan, arrested May 29 in Albuquerque and charged with possession of cocaine and evidence tampering charges, took an immediate leave of absence and enrolled in a California substance abuse treatment program. He may also face driving while intoxicated charges, based on test results. He has not been charged with DWI.
After the arrest, the Judicial Standards Commission filed a petition seeking his immediate, temporary suspension from office pending further disciplinary action while the criminal case is under way.
The Supreme Court scheduled a July 14 hearing regarding the matter, but Brennan's lawyer, Charles Daniels, said his client's resignation should obviate the hearing.
There's no need for it, Daniels said in a response filed in the commission case.
"Possible sanctions that may result from the commission proceedings range from various forms of graduated corrective discipline to the ultimate sanctions of removal and retirement, in recognition that the overriding purpose ... is the protection of the interests of the public and the New Mexico judiciary," Daniels wrote.
Daniels notes that Brennan took a voluntary leave and self-committed to an inpatient residential treatment program, which permits him little contact with anybody.
Brennan instructed Daniels to process his retirement "to avoid burdening the courts and the commission with any unnecessary proceedings."
"He wishes to assure this court, the commission and the public that it is his intention to remove himself from judicial service permanently, without the need for adversarial proceedings of any kind," Brennan's response said.
Daniels said Brennan continues to attempt to demonstrate his acceptance of personal responsibility and his understanding that he can't continue in any judicial capacity.
"Short of undoing history, a power not allotted to imperfect mortals, there is no more that he can do," Daniels wrote.
Judicial Standard Commission lawyers James Noel, the executive director, and Randall Roybal concede in a reply that there may be no need for further removal actions.
However, they said disciplinary proceedings are ongoing until a "disciplinary stipulation" is reached with Brennan or the commission sends its recommendation to the Supreme Court.
William Lang, elected chief judge three weeks ago after Brennan stepped down, said the vacancy will be for a criminal judge position.
Suellyn Scarnecchia, University of New Mexico Law School dean and chair of the judicial nominating commission, posted the vacancy, which will exist July 9.
Nominations and applications must be submitted by 5 p.m. July 23. The commission will conduct interviews Aug. 6. The commission will submit a list of up to five names to the governor.
Brennan sat as a member of the commission, but Lang said he has designated Judge Ted Baca as the Second Judicial District representative. Baca, a civil judge, is the immediate past president of the New Mexico District Judges Association.