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New Mexico Supreme Court gets an ‘F’ in disclosures

By   /   December 5, 2013  /   No Comments

A SUPREMELY BAD GRADE: A national study gives New Mexico a failing grade when it comes to financial disclosures of the state's Supreme Court.

A SUPREMELY BAD GRADE: A national study gives New Mexico a failing grade when it comes to financial disclosures of the state’s Supreme Court.

By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog

SANTA FE, N.M. — Open government may be a promise to be expected but, apparently, it’s merely a wish when it comes to getting detailed financial data from the New Mexico Supreme Court.

In a report card of every high court in all 50 states, New Mexico received an “F” when it came to analyzing the disclosure rules for Supreme Court justices.

“In many states, it’s practically impossible to glean any meaningful information from judges’ financial disclosures,” a study from the Center For Public Integrity said.

And that’s the case in New Mexico, too, as the study criticized the state for not putting financial and potential conflict-of-interest disclosures of New Mexico’s five justices online. The secretary of state’s office used to do it but stopped this year. Apparently, state law does not demand it.

“The Office of the Secretary of State supports transparency and openness in government, however at this time there is no authorization in statute that permits us to provide these disclosures online,” spokesman Ken Ortiz wrote in an email to the Center For Public Integrity. “When the legislature authorizes us to do so, we will provide them immediately.”

Perhaps that’s something that should be taken up in the upcoming 30-day legislative session that starts next month in Santa Fe.

A couple qualifiers:

First, there is no indication that any of the five New Mexico justices have done anything untoward. But the CFPI says such gaps in the system may open the door for potential corruption, conflicts and abuse. At best, enforcement rules across the country are spotty.

For example, in the space of two years, a justice on the Arkansas Supreme Court accepted a $50,000 trip to Italy and a $12,000 Caribbean cruise from an Arkansas lawyer.

Second, while New Mexico got an F, it had plenty of company. Forty-two states plus the District of Columbia received failing grades. New Mexico’s score came in at 38.8 on a scale of zero to 100, placing it in 36th place.

Click here to read the report, which includes an interactive map of all 50 states.

Contact Rob Nikolewski at rnikolewski@watchdog.org and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski

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Since 2010, Rob Nikolewski has covered New Mexico politics and investigated fraud, waste and abuse in government. He also writes an opinion column in the Sunday editions of the Santa Fe New Mexican. Rob joined New Mexico Watchdog after 20 years in television as a sports anchor and reporter. He anchored at MSNBC, New York City, Boston, Pittsburgh, Phoenix, Reno and Boise, winning three regional Emmy awards along the way. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, a master's in public administration from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and a bachelor's degree in journalism from Trinity University in San Antonio.

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