NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Former Torrance County sheriff turned judge, Heath White, will be back at work on Thursday after being off the bench for nearly three years while he faced a number of charges. On Wednesday, the State Supreme Court reinstated White to his elected position as Magistrate Court judge and ordered him to receive back pay for the time he was off the bench.
“Obviously my client is thrilled about this. The supreme court, we believe made the absolute correct decision,” said Sam Bregman, White’s attorney. “He’s ecstatic to go back to work for what the people elected him to do.”
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In 2019, White was temporarily suspended when he faced a list of charges, including embezzling more than $20,000 from taxpayers during his time as sheriff and using public money to buy personal items like guns and car parts.
Judge Charles Brown dismissed the charges later that year citing issues with the search warrant the state used to collect evidence. Despite two attempts by the Attorney General’s Office, the dismissal was upheld. Last October, the Judicial Standards Commission asked the state Supreme Court to reinstate White and give him back pay.
“He’s going back to work tomorrow morning. The Supreme Court ordered that this morning, He’ll be back in court tomorrow. And in the not too distant future, he’ll be hearing cases. He looks forward to continuing on as a great judge,” said Bregman.
There was never a permanent replacement for White’s position since he was temporarily suspended. Instead, court cases were handled by other Magistrate judges, both reitred and sitting ones, according to the state’s Office Of The Courts.
White’s term as an elected judge ends in December of this year, no word yet on if he’d run for re-election now that he’s been reinstated. The state’s Law Enforcement Academy did take away his license to be a law enforcement officer last summer.
The State Supreme Court also ordered White be given back pay for the nearly three years he did not work. The Office of the Courts said that could be in the ballpark of $300,000.
In a statement, a spokesperson with the Attorney General’s Office said, “We remain very concerned that taxpayer funds were used to purchase auto parts that were located on Heath White’s personal vehicle, and judges should apply the highest standards of accountability.”