ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A key figure inside Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration has a new position as a federal judge. Matthew Garcia has been appointed to the federal bench, a move by President Joe Biden’s administration.

Garcia may be familiar to some New Mexicans for his work related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In front of the New Mexico Supreme Court in 2020, Garcia successfully defended the legality of public health order decisions made by the Lujan Grisham administration.

Judge Garcia was sworn in to the position Thursday afternoon. He will oversee cases in Albuquerque.

Prior to his federal appointment, Garcia was chief of staff for the Lujan Grisham administration. He was born and raised in New Mexico, earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico in 1999, then eventually earning a law degree at UNM in 2005. Before joining the governor’s administration, Garcia was a civil rights attorney.

Garcia is the 26th federal District Judge for New Mexico. He replaces District Judge Claire Herrera, who created a vacancy on the court by attaining a Senior Judge status in 2019.

According to the U.S. Federal Courts website, senior status judges “may choose to handle a reduced caseload.” They’re estimated to handle roughly 20 percent of the total district and appellate caseload in the U.S. Federal Court system.