News Release


Release: Contact:

Christine Morganti
(505) 797-6028

State Bar of New Mexico Announces Recipients of Annual Awards

Each year the State Bar of New Mexico recognizes those who have distinguished themselves or who have made exemplary contributions to the State Bar or to the legal profession. The awards will be presented from 5 to 5:30 p.m., July 10, at the State Bar’s Annual Meeting at the Buffalo Thunder Resort. Photos may be found at

John P. Salazar — Justice Pamela B. Minzner Professionalism Award

John Salazar
The Professionalism Award is given to attorneys or judges who, over long and distinguished legal careers, have by their ethical and personal conduct exemplified for their fellow attorneys the epitome of professionalism. The Commission on Professionalism reviews nominations and makes recommendations to the Board of Bar Commissioners for selection. Known for her fervent and unyielding commitment to professionalism, Justice Minzner (1943–2007) served on the New Mexico Supreme Court from 1994 to 2007.
Salazar’s career began at the Rodey Law Firm in 1968. He was the first chair of Rodey’s Environment/Natural Resources Department. For many years he was a member of Rodey’s Executive Committee and chair of the Business Department. Currently, he chairs Rodey’s Land Use/Real Estate Group. His practice focuses on real estate, land use and development, and eminent domain law. An AV lawyer and a member of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers, Salazar is listed in Best Lawyers in America, Chambers & Partners, and Super Lawyers. In 2006, he received a Presidential appointment, following Senate confirmation, to serve on the Board of the Inter-American Foundation, an independent foreign assistance agency of the U.S. Government that provides grants for grassroots development in Latin America. He has previously served as chair of the Boards of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, the UNM Alumni Association, and the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce. He is a member of the Albuquerque Community Foundation Board, the Albuquerque Economic Forum, the Armed Forces Advisory Association, and the National Association of Industrial and Office Parks.

Hon. Mark B. McFeeley — Seth D. Montgomery* Distinguished Judicial Service Award

Hon. Mark B. McFeeley
The Seth D. Montgomery Distinguished Judicial Service Award is given to judges who have distinguished themselves through long and exemplary service on the bench and who have significantly advanced the administration of justice. Justice Montgomery (1937–1998), a brilliant and widely respected attorney and jurist, served on the New Mexico Supreme Court from 1989 to 1994.
Judge McFeeley was appointed to the bench in 1981. He received his B.S. from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and his J.D., cum laude, from the University of New Mexico where he was the editor of the New Mexico Law Review and a member of the Order of the Coif. Judge McFeeley clerked for Judge Oliver Seth, 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, from 1972 to 1973, and worked in private practice from 1973 to 1981. He was instrumental in forming the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel for the 10th Circuit, and served as its chief judge from its inception through 2009. In 2004 he served as president of the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges. He also served as a member of the Judicial Conference Committee on Bankruptcy Rules. Judge McFeeley was inducted as a Fellow of the American College of Bankruptcy in 2004.

Ben A. Longwill — Robert H. LaFollette Pro Bono Award

Ben A. Longwill
The Robert H. LaFollette Pro Bono Award is given to an attorney who has made an exemplary contribution of time and effort, without compensation, to provide legal assistance to people who could not afford the assistance of an attorney. Robert LaFollette (1900–1977), director of Legal Aid to the Poor, was a champion of the underprivileged who, through countless volunteer hours and personal generosity and sacrifice, was the consummate humanitarian and philanthropist.
Longwill was born in Albuquerque in 1951. He graduated from NMSU and UNM and was admitted to the State Bar in 1980. He has been in private practice in Las Cruces since 1980. Longwill was an assistant city attorney from 1985 to 1987. He is the author of Prevailing Brief in Betancourt (D.W.I. Rodblock) case and was a municipal judge in the Las Cruces Municipal Court from 1989 to 1993.

Randy J. Knudson — Distinguished Bar Service Award–Lawyer

Randy J. Knudson
The Distinguished Bar Service Award–Lawyer recognizes attorneys who have provided valuable service and contributions to the legal profession over a significant period of time.
Knudson received his juris doctorate from the UNM School of Law in 1980. He has served on the Judicial Standards Commission, the New Mexico Supreme Court’s Rules of Civil Procedure Committee for the District Courts, and the Judicial Performance Evaluation Pilot Study Committee. He currently serves on the New Mexico Board of Bar Examiners and is a current director for the New Mexico Trial Lawyers Association, frequently presenting on topics dealing with complex litigation. At the local level, he is the president of the Roosevelt County Committee Development Corporation, a 501C3 non-profit organization charged with attaching and expanding economic opportunities in Roosevelt County. Knudson practices with his law partner of 29 years, Stephen Doerr, in the firm of Doerr & Knudson PA. Knudson and his wife Laura are the parents of Russell, Caroline, and Katherine.

Sally Saunders — Distinguished Bar Service – Non-Lawyer Award

Sally Saunders
The Distinguished Bar Service Non-Lawyer Award is given to non-lawyers who have provided valuable service and contributions over a significant period of time.
Saunders is a native of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and moved with her husband Buck to Santa Fe in 1991. After raising two sons she returned to work, first as a volunteer and then as an employee of the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office in Colorado Springs. Upon moving to Santa Fe she began working at the law firm of Stephen Pfeffer and later accompanied him to the district court. Sally has been Judge Pfeffer's trial court administrative assistant at the lst Judicial District Court for the past 12½ years. They have worked in the Civil, Domestic Relations, and most recently the Criminal divisions. When not at work Saunders enjoys traveling, reading, and daily walks with her husband.

Center for Civic Values—New Mexico High School Mock Trial Program — Outstanding Legal Organization or Program Award

Michelle Geiger
The Outstanding Legal Organization or Program Award recognizes sections, committees, local and voluntary bars and outstanding or extraordinary law-related programs that serve the legal profession and the public.
In 2009, the High School Mock Trial Competition celebrated its 31st year as one of the premier educational opportunities in New Mexico. The program was created to help students acquire a working knowledge of our judicial system and to teach them how to write succinctly, to think on their feet and to make coherent arguments. The teaching emphasis is on communication as well as analytical and critical-thinking skills. Mock trial, which is set within the context of the American system of justice, provides a realistic view of the law, the legal system and our role as citizens within that system. A “case” is distributed in October, including witness statements, exhibits and Rules of Evidence. Teams of six to twelve students working with their teacher and attorney coaches dissect the materials, assign roles as attorneys or witnesses and, in February, compete against other schools in trials. Each team competes in four trials, presenting both sides of the case. The top eight advance to state finals for three more rounds in March, with the winner going on to the national championship competition, held in a different state every year.

Clara Moran — Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year Award

Clara Moran
The Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year Award recognizes one or more attorneys who have, during the formative stages of their legal careers by their ethical and personal conduct, exemplified for their fellow attorneys the epitome of professionalism; nominee has demonstrated commitment to clients’ causes and to public service, enhancing the image of the legal profession in the eyes of the public; nominee must have practiced no more than five years or must be no more than 36 years of age.
Moran has been a prosecutor in the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office since 2005. She has worked within the Metropolitan Court Division, the Felony DWI Division, and currently in the Crimes Against Children Division. In 2007, she received the Spirit Award from the New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence for her leadership role in Governor Richardson’s Domestic Violence Pilot Project. She is currently vice-chair of the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar. She is a member of the New Mexico Supreme Court’s Uniform Jury Instruction Committee (Criminal) as well as a member of the H. Verle Payne Inns of Court. She is a 2005 graduate of the UNM School of Law, participated in moot court and was awarded Health Law Scholar. A native New Mexican, she lives in Albuquerque with her husband, Richard, and their 11-month old daughter Molly.