Incumbent judge campaigns on qualifications
The first time Miles Hanisee was appointed to the NM Court of Appeals, he was removed by voters the following year. Now he’s been reappointed to the court and he’s asking voters again to keep him there.
“I am only the second judge on this court, in its history, to be appointed twice,” Hanisee said. “Now that sounds great but what it means is that I lost an election in the middle.”
Republican Gov. Susana Martinez first appointed Hanisee to an open seat on the appeals court in 2011, but he lost his election to keep the seat in November 2012. Then, the very next month, due to the retirement of Judge Celia Castillo, Martinez again appointed Hanisee to an open seat.
On Nov. 4, Hanisee faces a challenge for the seat by Democrat Kerry Kiernan, a long time attorney.
Judges on the NM Court of Appeals review cases that have been appealed in district and trial courts in the state of New Mexico with the exceptions of appeals from the Public Regulation Commission, cases dealing with life imprisonment, and cases involving habeas corpus (a writ ordering a person in custody to be brought before a court). Judges on the court of appeals make $117,505.44, according to the New Mexico State Government employee listing.
The judge said that he tells both Democrats and Republicans that his political affiliation shouldn’t be the only thing voters look at. Instead Hanisee said he would like the voters of New Mexico to look at the things that he has accomplished rather than his party.
A particular case in which Hanisee wrote the opinion came in January, 2013. Hanisee voted to sustain tax relief for a private conservation entity called Pecos River Open Spaces, Inc.
The state Constitution doesn’t state that conservation land is exempt from property taxes, and Hanisee wrote an opinion to preserve the non-profit from increased taxation. The decision in the case states the charitable use of the conservation project is beneficial to the public and therefore should be exempt from having to pay additional taxes.
“It seeks the beautification of New Mexico Lands. If you’ve ever been up to the Pecos River, you don’t want anything on those lands,” Hanisee said. “That’s certainly a ruling that I would think all New Mexicans can celebrate.”
Looking beyond the party
Allan L. Wainwright, a private practice lawyer admitted to the New Mexico District Court in 1982, said that he agrees with a lot of the opinions that Hanisee has written. However, he said that because Hanisee is a Republican in New Mexico, the incumbent judge is at a disadvantage.
“The problem with our judicial election system is that the general public doesn’t know virtually anything about judicial candidates,” Wainwright said.
Wainwright said the majority of people voting in judicial elections simply side with their favored party, and the majority of New Mexican voters are Democrats.
“The common public, if they’re lucky, doesn’t have to deal with the judicial system, particularly on a day in and day out basis,” Wainwright said. “They don’t have enough knowledge to make an informed decision and they’re not able to get enough information.”
Hanisee said that there needs to be a change to the process of judicial elections since the voting process has nothing to do with party affiliations.
“Nothing about this job has anything to do with being a Republican or being a Democrat,” Hanisee said. “Yet here we have one of the most regressive antiquated of mindsets when it comes to judicial elections. It’s time we change that.”
Judge Hanisee says his experience both on the bench and before the court attest to his qualification.
“Incumbency (for me) means I have a record of fairness, a record of independent thinking, and have contributed to New Mexico in a positive way,” Hanisee said. “Never once have any of my colleagues dissented anything that I have written.”
An important quality for the appeals court is for judges to have a wide range of experience in different types of law, he said.
“We want judges that are experienced in all areas of the law,” he said. “I think a better question is ‘what did you do in that period of time (while serving on the bar). Have you done a lot of different things?’”
Hanisee points to his work as a clerk for three federal courts of appeals: the seventh, ninth and tenth circuits. Clerks are the judge’s staff members who often conduct research, organize memos and opinions, verify sources, and proofread opinions written by judges in order to gain hands on experience with the law.
“Very few lawyers in the United States have served as authors on the staffs of three different federal court of appeals judges,” he said. “I don’t know of any other.”
After his clerkships, he took the assistant United States attorney position in New Mexico from 1996-2007. During that time he was recognized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for several major prosecutions. Hanisee also served as a civil rights coordinator, a criminal prosecutor and Pueblo of Zuni Project Coordinator while during his tenure at the Assistant U.S. Attorney in New Mexico.[/text_output][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][image type=”none” float=”none” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” src=”3015″][text_output]