LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KRQE) – After a Las Cruces judge called an assistant district attorney to give advice on a criminal case, the judge faced an alleged violation of Judicial Standards Commission Rules. Recently, the New Mexico Supreme Court issued a censure and says the judge engaged in misconduct.
James T. Martin, a judge at the Third Judicial District Court, faced allegations after getting involved in a criminal trial. In 2018, Robert Burnham faced charges for assault with a deadly weapon. The victim was Judge James T. Martin’s daughter.
When the case went to district court, all district judges, including Martin, recused themselves. But, once the trial was underway, Martin talked on the phone with Assistant District Attorney Samuel Rosten, who was prosecuting the case and told Rosten specific phrasing to use in the case’s jury instructions, according to the New Mexico Supreme Court.
The jury ended up convicting the defendant of aggravated assault by use of a deadly weapon with a special verdict due to the use of a firearm. The defendant then appealed the conviction
In 2022, the state’s Judicial Standards Commission filed a formal notice against Judge Martin. After an investigation, Martin admitted to violating six commission rules. Now, the state’s supreme court is issuing a public censure.
Martin denies willful misconduct in office. But the New Mexico Supreme Court says the judge’s actions “created an appearance of impropriety.”
“We recognize that when the family member of a judicial officer becomes enmeshed in the legal system, it can be stressful for everyone involved. This is especially true when the family member is the victim of a violent crime. The natural impulse of parents is to provide comfort, reassurance, and protection for their children. In this case, Judge Martin may have felt that he was acting in the best interest of his daughter, however, judges, unlike other parents are held to a higher standard,” the censure from the supreme court notes.
The point of the public censure is to not only remind judges of their responsibility, but to show the public that the state’s legal system is committed to being independent, fair, and impartial, the censure notes.