New Mexico: Senate Rules committee approves constitutional amendment to allow more appeals directly to Court of Appeals

An amendment to the New Mexico constitution to allow the legislature to help set appellate jurisdiction in the state’s judiciary has cleared its first legislative hurdle.

Currently the state’s constitution has three particular provisions when it comes to appeals

  1. District Court cases involving sentences of death or life imprisonment go directly to the state’s Supreme Court (Art. 6, Sec. 2).
  2. The District Courts themselves have “appellate jurisdiction of all cases originating in inferior courts and tribunals in their respective districts.” (Art. 6, Sec. 13)
  3. Finally, the constitution provides “Appeals shall be allowed in all cases from the final judgments and decisions of the probate courts and other inferior courts to the district courts, and in all such appeals, trial shall be had de novo unless otherwise provided by law.” (Art. 6, Sec. 27)

The problem: these provisions were written into the state’s 1910 constitution prior to the creation (by statute) of the state’s Court of Appeals in 1965, thus they didn’t anticipate that court and its potential use for appellate review.

SJR 1 as substituted by the Senate Rules Committee last week addresses each of these 3 sections with an eye towards shifting appeals away from the Supreme and District courts and to the Court of Appeals.

  1. The provision for death/life imprisonment cases going directly to the supreme court would be stricken.
  2. District Courts would not have appellate jurisdiction over “all” cases originating in inferior courts and tribunals in their respective district.
  3. The provision that probate/inferior court appeals go “to the district courts, and in all such appeals, trial shall be had de novo” would be struck.

SJR 1 now goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee.