Judicial races often provide respite from the mudslinging and TV attack ads of, say, swing-state gubernatorial campaigns. This year's contest for the first position in the New Mexico Court of Appeals is no exception.

Democratic incumbent Robert Robles, who is up for retention after his 2008 appointment by Gov. Bill Richardson, and Republican challenger Ned Fuller have both campaigned with a level of decorum befitting—well, judges. If anything, though, that only makes the voters' choice harder. Be sure to visit SFReporter.com for the extended pop quiz, along with some of sitting Judge Robles' recent opinions.


1. What are the three requirements for judges serving on the Court of Appeals?

2. How do you ensure you're applying the proper standard of review, rather than just substituting your opinion for the trial judge's?

3. Who is currently the longest-serving judge on the Court of Appeals?

4. Why do you want to be (or continue to be) an appellate judge?

5. What is the state budget for the Court of Appeals?

6. Do you agree with the US Supreme Court’s recent Citizens United decision, which allows for corporate campaign donations? Why/why not?


Ned Fuller, 45, lawyer, Republican, nedfuller.com
1. Well, there are constitutional requirements. The first is that you have to be a practicing attorney for 10 years, and then you have to have been a resident of the state. And then, let’s see if I can remember the third one…I don’t remember what the third one is.

2. Well, and that's the critical role the court has, is to uphold, er, apply the law as it's written. So what you have to do is obviously research the standard for the particular issue that's before you and make sure that you faithfully apply that standard, uh, whenever you issue your opinion.

3. On the Court of Appeals? Um…don't know. I want to say it's Judge [James] Wechsler.

4. Because I have a strong belief that the judge should uphold the Constitution and apply the law, not rewrite the law.

5. I don't know what the Court of Appeals budget is; I think the budget for the courts overall is $137 million. I think that's statewide, though.

6. I have to be real careful—as you know, I can't pledge or promise that I would rule a certain way. That is a US Supreme Court decision that, I think, references corporate participation in the election process and restraints that were placed on that participation by the US Legislature. So I want to be careful that I don't imply that I would or would not rule a certain way. I think that probably what's best is people can review that decision and kind of make their conclusion as to whether they think that it's an appropriate ruling. Obviously the First Amendment is pretty broadly interpreted when it says that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, so…I guess I should probably leave my answer at that.

Robert Robles, 60, judge on the Court of Appeals, Democrat, votejudgerobles.com
1. Well, you have to be a member of the bar for a minimum of five years, you have to be a resident of the state of New Mexico and you have to—those are the requirements.

2. Well, that's a good question, and what we do is, we have certain standards of review for certain kinds of cases. Some involve de novo, where we look at things anew, and some involve other things. And what we have to do, and what I do in my opinions, is I set out what my standard of review is so that everyone knows what my standard of review is. And then I look through it through the lens of that standard of review and not through my personal opinions or feelings.

3. My gosh, I believe that the longest-serving judge on the Court of Appeals—gosh! I think that that's…Judge [Michael] Bustamante.

4. You know, I've been a judge for—gosh, I was a district judge for 17%uFFFD years, and I've been on the Court of Appeals for almost two years. No. 1, I absolutely enjoy public service. No. 2, I have a love of the law that I've had since I was very young, and I believe that I'm in a position to utilize my many years of experience to provide the people of New Mexico with an informed decision. And also that because I have the background I have, that I can take on additional cases to help with the challenge that we have of moving cases along more quickly.

5. Oh, my gosh, I really don't know. That's something that the chief judge handles, and I'm not really involved in the court's budget.

6. I'm afraid I can't comment on that for you. Why not? You know, really, it's not appropriate for a judge to comment on decisions of the US Supreme Court, whether we agree or disagree, especially because those decisions could come before us in [another] form. I don't believe it's something I should do under the Code of Judicial Conduct.

Answer Key

1. What are the three requirements for judges on the Court of Appeals?

    According to the Constitution of New Mexico, NMSA 1978, Article VI, sections 8 and 28, appeals court judges must:
       • be at least 35 years old;
       • have practiced law for at least 10 years; and
       • have resided in New Mexico for at least three years immediately before taking office.

3. Who is currently the longest-serving judge on the Court of Appeals?

According to their court biographies, judges James Wechsler and Michael Bustamante both were appointed to the Court of Appeals in late 1994. A news article from that year puts Wechsler's nomination in November and Bustamante's a month later, on Dec. 19.

5. What is the state budget for the Court of Appeals?

According to House Bill 2, page 9, the FY 2011 appropriation for the New Mexico Court of Appeals is $5.6 million.
[The total judicial budget, including all courts, district attorneys and public defenders, is $234.5 million (HB 2, page 31).]