Judge Not

Santa Fe Magistrate Judge Dev Khalsa agrees to resign ahead of his DWI trial

Santa Fe Magistrate Judge Dev Atma Khalsa has agreed to step down and never run again for a judicial position in the state, according to a stipulated motion filed with the New Mexico Supreme Court on Monday. According to the agreement, the state’s Judicial Standards Commission agrees to drop its disciplinary case against Khalsa in exchange for his resignation and disqualification holding judicial office in the state again.

“On May 9, 2023, [Khalsa] requested through his counsel that this matter be disposed of by entering into a…'Stipulation’ with the Commission whereby [Khalsa] shall resign permanently from judicial office and never again seek judicial office in New Mexico,” the motion reads.

The motion also asks the high court to approve the agreement to make it official, although it’s still unclear when justices might weigh in. If the Supreme Court approves, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham would appoint a replacement to serve until the 2024 election.

The commission’s motion reasons that, if approved by the court, the agreement “ensures the public’s continued confidence and trust in the judiciary, and provides for judicial economy and best serves the interests of justice and the judiciary.”

In a brief phone call Tuesday, Khalsa refused to speak with SFR and directed questions to his attorney in the disciplinary matter, Briggs Cheney, who also refused to comment, writing in an email to SFR that “it would not be appropriate” for him or his client to discuss the issue while it’s still pending with the Supreme Court.

Khalsa’s attorney in his criminal case, Kitren Fischer, says Khalsa still maintains his innocence and that he expects to stand trial at the end of June.

Khalsa was arrested and charged with drunk driving after Santa Fe Police responded to Khalsa rolling his car on the St. Francis Road off-ramp from I-25 during the early hours of Feb. 26. The next day the New Mexico Supreme Court ordered Khalsa be suspended with pay and barred from the court house until the New Mexico Judicial Standards Commission completed its investigation.

On March 1, the New Mexico Judicial Standards Commission notified Khalsa it had begun formal proceedings to determine whether he was fit to remain on the bench and asked the Supreme Court to also suspend Khalsa’s pay, which the court did a month later. Cheney argued in a response that cutting off the judge’s pay was unnecessary and that the commission moved too quickly to do so as it had not finished its disciplinary investigation.

Police footage from the night of Khalsa’s arrest showed him denying a blood draw to determine whether he was intoxicated. Police initially tried to charge Khalsa with an aggravated drinking and driving charge for that refusal before dropping the enhancement because officers never asked for a breath test.

After Khalsa won the November 2022 general election, the governor appointed  him to bench to replace a retiring magistrate. He began hearing cases in mid-December.Part of his platform while running for the office was to reform and streamline the DWI process in the Magistrate Court.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story gave the wrong date that Khalsa took office and has been corrected.

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