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Governor Denies SFR's Allegations in Records Lawsuit

Gov. Susana Martinez asks court to dismiss complaint

October 8, 2013, 1:00 pm
By Justin Horwath
Gov. Susana Martinez denies SFR's allegations that she routinely violated the state's open records law and that she violated the freedom of the press provision of New Mexico's constitution.

In a formal answer filed Monday in response to a lawsuit SFR filed a month ago, an attorney for the governor asked the First Judicial District Court to deny SFR relief and to toss the complaint with prejudice, a legal term that means no similar claims could be presented to the court. Her response argues that SFR lacks standing to bring the lawsuit and that all the claims in it are moot.

The newspaper's complaint alleges Martinez violated the Inspection of Public Records Act in seven records requests made by reporters and an editor.  Martinez—who campaigned for office promising a more transparent state government—denied all seven alleged violations and stood by her office's assertion of executive privilege in withholding pardon documents from the paper. 

Representing Martinez is Paul J. Kennedy, a seasoned New Mexico lawyer whom the governor appointed as a justice on the state Supreme Court in 2012. Kennedy lost  election to remain on the high court last year. He has also represented the governor in recent redistricting battles. 

Also last year, SFR published a story that included Kennedy's email correspondence with Jessica Hernandez. At the time, she was general counsel for Martinez, and her exchange with Kennedy was about a judgeship appointment. Kennedy sent SFR a letter on behalf of Martinez that argued dozens of private emails—which included his exchange with Hernandez—the paper was set to publish were not public records and that they were stolen. SFR published the emails.

SFR claimed in its lawsuit that after its publication of that article, the governor's office stopped responding to SFR's inquiries in a campaign of unlawful retaliation against the paper—in violation of the New Mexico Constitution's freedom of the press provision. Martinez denied that claim in Monday's filing. She argued her spokesman, Enrique Knell, responded to five inquiries from SFR in the period after the December article. But SFR staffers only received one official statement from Knell in that period—on Aug. 28, and it came after the article in question, about deceased state Rep. Stephen Easley's replacement, had already been published.

The case is assigned to District Court Judge Sarah Singleton.

Read Gov. Susana Martinez' formal response to SFR's lawsuit below.

Read SFR's original complaint here.

MartinezAnswer SFR 13 10 07

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