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Gov. to Sue Judicial Nominating Committee

The Associated Press
    SANTA FE— Gov. Bill Richardson said Thursday he will sue a judicial nominating commission, challenging its decision to twice send him a single nominee for a vacant judgeship in Carlsbad.
    "The power of a governor to appoint means the power to choose," said Richardson, who said he finds it hard to believe there's only one person in the community qualified to be judge.
    The nominating commission for the 5th Judicial District early in January sent Richardson a single nominee— a former judge, Richard Brown— to fill a seat left vacant when Jay Forbes retired in November. Five people had applied.
    Richardson on Jan. 11 asked for more nominees, but the panel again sent him only Brown's name.
    The governor then wrote the commission, saying he would not accept its refusal to send him more than one nominee.
    "I cannot let the commission's actions stand unchallenged when they fly in the face of the law," he said Thursday. "It is inappropriate for a group consisting principally of nonelected individuals to take away the choice of an elected official who is responsible for representing the voters. The commission failed to fulfill its duties, which is a disservice to the courts and the local community."
    Gilbert Gallegos, a spokesman for Richardson, and Phil Sisneros, a spokesman for Attorney General Gary King, could not say Thursday when the lawsuit would be filed.
    Suellyn Scarnecchia, dean of the University of New Mexico School of Law and chairwoman of the commission, said Thursday she had no comment at this time.
    One committee member, Carlsbad attorney Dick Blenden, said last month the group "came to the considered opinion" that Brown was the qualified candidate. Blenden also said he resented Richardson "strong-arming the committee to do something different."
    The governor has said he has no objection to Brown but was concerned there were "no more candidates submitted to me that reflect the diversity of this state."
    King, who agreed to represent Richardson in the lawsuit, said Thursday, "We believe that the nominating commissions should be required to present a group of qualified candidates to the governor to preserve his authority to select the appropriate person to serve as judge."



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