Winner of district judge race in Santa Fe could have statewide impact

Many of the most serious and complicated civil cases in New Mexico are heard in the First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe. Judges who preside over a civil docket in the capital city must be prepared to make decisions that can have consequences for the entire state.

During her two terms on the bench, Division II District Judge Sarah Singleton handed down a ruling that negated gubernatorial vetoes of 10 bills (they became laws as a result), ordered the Santa Fe County clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and presided over a wrongful death case resulting in the largest jury award in state history.

Four Democrats — former Santa Fe County Attorney Gregory Shaffer, Santa Fe County Magistrate Court Judge Donna Bevacqua-Young, former Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney Maria Sanchez-Gagne, and former city police officer-turned-lawyer Jerry A. Archuleta — are seeking to fill the vacancy created by Singleton’s retirement.

Because there are no Republican candidates, the Democratic primary winner will become the new judge, presiding over a docket of predominantly civil cases originating in Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Los Alamos counties, and cases aimed at state agencies.

Three of the current candidates — Shaffer, Sanchez-Gagne and Archuleta — were among eight applicants who sought appointment when Singleton announced her retirement last summer. All were interviewed by the commission, but Shaffer was the only one of the current candidates who had his name sent to the governor.

Martinez appointed Shaffer to the seat. Per state law, however, he must now defeat his challengers to stay on the bench.

Shaffer — who took the bench in October but before that had never taken a case to jury trial — stressed his selection by the commission as one of the reasons voters should elect him.

Sanchez-Gagne was interviewed but not nominated by the commission for Singleton’s seat. She puts less stock in the nominating commission’s vetting, calling it a “very political process” in which candidates’ chances are likely “based on past history or relationships with the governor.”

She worked for the state Attorney General’s Office for 15 years before being fired in 2015 under circumstances she described as “a dismissal with a positive recommendation.” The letter she received said her services were no longer needed but did not list any performance issues she might have addressed, she said.

“It was just a new administration coming in,” she said. Her firing came nine months after the regime change.

Sanchez-Gagne later joined a lawsuit filed against the Attorney General’s Office by group of about 20 employees who were terminated en masse when Attorney General Hector Balderas took office in January 2015. That case is pending in the state Court of Appeals.

Archuleta was fired from the police department following criticism of his handling of the initial investigation into the disappearance of 7-year-old Robbie Romero and allegations of insurance fraud. But, he said recently, he wouldn’t change how he handled the investigation into the boy’s disappearance in June 2000 — a high-profile case. And the insurance issue was the result of a paperwork error, he added.

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Santa Fe chef is a James Beard award finalist

SANTA FE, N.M. — A Santa Fe chef is a finalist for a prestigious James Beard Foundation Award.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Martin Rios is a finalist for Best Chef of the Southwest, and he is the only New Mexico chef up for the award.

The owner of Restaurant Martin on Galisteo Street, he’s been up for a James Beard award in the past.

He has been a Best Chef semifinalist eight times for what is called by some as the Oscars of the food world.

He describes his restaurant as serving progressive American cuisine.

The awards will be announced May 7 at a gala in Chicago.

Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican,

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Utah Climate

Utah is home to some fascinating climate. Southwestern Utah has both the lowest as well as the hottest temperatures in the state. It’s frequently referred to as Dixie as the early settlers could grow cotton in the region.

Utah is also home to several ski resorts that offer plenty of opportunities to enjoy snow during the winter months. Skiers from around the world flock to the region to experience the light fluffy snow that can rapidly accumulate in the region.

Seventy percent of the land in the state is either BLM land or Utah State Trust land. The U.S. National Forest also owns a portion of the region. Every county in the state of Utah offers up some form of National Forest.

Utah enjoys such a varied climate that it boasts both Joshua trees, Yucca plants, and lastly, jumping cholla cactus in the far southwestern corner of the region. Featuring a dry and semi-arid desert climate many of the mountains also offer up a variety of climate with some of them actually above the treeline. Dry weather is a direct result of being in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevadas located in nearby California.

Most of the precipitation in the state is a direct result of the Pacific Ocean as the state lies in part in a path that brings in Pacific Storms in the months of October to May. Summertime brings monsoon moisture from the Gulf Of California in the southern region as well as the eastern region of the state.

The densely populated Wasatch Front receives about 15 inches of rain annually and the Great Salt Lake Desert region receives even less at about 5 inches of rain annually. If you go further south you’ll find that St. George only gets about 3 inches of rain. Snow is common in all but the southernmost regions thanks to the Great Salt Lake which gives it a lake effect snow and increases the annual snowfall totals.

It’s not at all uncommon for some of the Wasatch Range to receive as much as 500 inches of snow per year. The deep powder snow led the ski industry in Utah to adopt a slogan “the Greatest Snow On Earth.” Winter temperature inversions are quite common across the basins and valleys and lead to thick fog and haze that may last for weeks on end. Thanks to this inversion, Salt Lake also has some of the worst pollutions in the nation.