ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – After a judge ruled against the Second Judicial District Court in a public records lawsuit over GPS records of criminal suspects, the court says it will appeal the decision. In a recent statement sent by legal council for the court, attorney Alison Orona said, in part, “there is a dispute as to the interpretation of the law.”

That dispute became public in December 2021, when Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez announced a lawsuit surrounding access of records kept by the court’s Pretrial Services Division. In the lawsuit, Torrez’s office sought the GPS records of two criminal suspects monitored by the court: a man accused in dozens of burglary cases and another a man accused in a murder case.

According to the initial lawsuit, the DA’s Office’s requests for the GPS data were denied by the court’s Pretrial Services Division. According to the DA’s Office, in its rejection, the court cited concerns about the criminal defendant’s privacy.

By August 1, 2022, nearly eight months after the initial lawsuit was filed, a New Mexico district court judge ruled against the court, compelling the Pretrial Services Division to provide records to the DA’s Office. In a seven page ruling, 13th Judicial District Court Judge Jim Noel said the Pretrial Services Division “did not base its denials” for the records on “any valid exemptions,” improperly denying the DA’s Office access to GPS records.

Ten days after that ruling, the district court announced it would appeal the decision “after careful consideration.” In a statement, the 2nd Judicial District Court’s General Counsel Alison Orona argued, in part, that the “District Attorney has always had the baility to obtain GPS records out of the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA), such as though judicial order, search warrant, subpoena, or protective order, and has done so many times in the past prior to this litigation.”

The appeal is expected to send the case to either the New Mexico Court of Appeals or the state Supreme Court. That process could take months to conclude.

According to court documents, another hearing in the case is expected to take place on September 1, 2022, in relation to a request for damages from the Bernalillo County DA’s Office. The DA’s Office contends that it used prosecutors time to argue this case.

Full statement for Second Judicial District Court:

After careful consideration, the Second Judicial District Court (“SJDC”) Court Administration has decided to appeal the August 1, 2022 ruling regarding Court Administration’s denial of public records requests for GPS records. Court Administration appreciates that this matter is of significant public importance. Court Administration processes all public requests in good faith and in accordance with the law.

The Office of the District Attorney has always had the ability to obtain GPS records outside of the Inspection of Public Records Act (“IPRA”), such as through judicial order, search warrant, subpoena, or protective order, and has done so many times in the past prior to this litigation.

In this case, there is a dispute as to the interpretation of the law, and SJDC Court Administration looks forward to guidance from the appellate courts.

Alison Orona, General Counsel, Second Judicial District Court