State Bar Honors Five Outstanding Prosecutors
Albuquerque, NM—The State Bar of New Mexico Prosecutors Section presented its annual Prosecutor of the Year awards March 2 at the Inn of the Mountain Gods, Mescalero, N.M., during the New Mexico District Attorneys Association spring conference. State Bar Prosecutors Section Chair Janice Schryer presented the following:
Prosecutor of the Year – Susana Martinez, 3rd Judicial District Attorney’s Office. For 23 years Martinez has vigorously prosecuted offenders and taken victims’ causes to the Legislature resulting in the passage of new laws. She is serving her fourth term as the elected district attorney. Among many initiatives, Martinez spearheaded a truancy program that provides positive motivation as well as appropriate consequences. She actively promoted a pre-prosecution diversion program that provides rehabilitation as opposed to punishment for first-time offenders. Martinez and her staff make a point to foster relationships and support victims through the legal process as well as after the offender has been convicted. She was the driving force behind Katie’s Law and also the Baby Brianna Bill that increased penalties to those who abuse and kill young children. In a landmark case, Martinez prosecuted and won a first degree murder case of a juvenile. The defense that juveniles could not be held accountable for first degree murder based on brain development did not prevail in State v. Garcia. In addition to attending to the administrative tasks and vigorously prosecuting cases, Martinez finds time to mentor new attorneys. “She is always available to her entire staff to provide support and advice,” stated the nomination letter from her staff.
Law Enforcement Prosecutor of the Year – Leslie Fernandez, 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office (Colfax, Taos and Union counties). Contributing countless hours to law enforcement in Colfax and Union counties, the Colfax County sheriff has relied on Fernandez for the 19 years he has been in law enforcement. Until recently she had been the sole assistant DA in Colfax County and served as assistant DA to Union County at times when the position was vacant. “Ms. Fernandez has that outstanding commitment to ensure that the citizens of Colfax County can go to bed at night knowing that the law enforcement community has a knowledgeable person to assist us,” said Colfax County Sheriff Patrick Casias.
Community Service Prosecutor of the Year – Rick Wellborn, 3rd Judicial District Attorney’s Office (Dona Aña County). Wellborn has been active in the investigation and prosecution of complex construction fraud cases and extensive community involvement, particularly with high school and college students. According to Chief Deputy District Attorney Amy Orlando, the proper investigation of construction fraud cases can be a long and tedious process, sometimes involving years of investigation. The process includes dealing with many witnesses, victims, subcontractors and bankers, just to name a few. “Due to Wellborn’s dedication in these cases, several cheating contractors have been brought to justice and…the word is getting out that these types of practices will not be tolerated in our community. When he is not prosecuting cases, Wellborn volunteers in many law-related programs for students. He manages a forensic accounting internship program an NMSU, teaches and coaches a criminal forensics class at San Andres High School and is a volunteer judge for Mock Trial and Teen Court.
Legal Impact Prosecutor of the Year – Nicole Moss, 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office (Bernalillo County). Since joining the Bernalillo County Crimes Against Children Division in 2006, Moss has strived to make a positive and lasting effect on the way child abuse cases are prosecuted in New Mexico. The most notable example is a current case on appeal that has implication not only on how child abuse cases are prosecuted, but also how vehicular homicides which result in the death of a child are prosecuted—third degree felony or first degree child abuse which carries a more severe sentence. When not prosecuting cases, Moss spends her time mentoring other attorneys in the division, mentoring law students and volunteering to teach trial strategy and trial practice to law students.
Rookie Prosecutor of the Year – Beth Watson, 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office (Chaves County). Watson joined the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office after graduating from Texas Tech School of Law in May 2009 and in that short amount of time has taken many misdemeanor and felony DWI cases to trial and won them all. According to 5th Judicial District Attorney Janetta Hicks, “She has gone up against some of the most experienced attorneys in this county and has remained poised. In trial, she never seems to skip a beat no matter what happens. She never appears flustered as some new lawyers do in those first few trials.”
The State Bar of New Mexico was organized in 1886 and is composed of more than 8500 members. Its purposes are to aid the courts in administering justice and preserving the rule of law, and to foster a high standard of integrity and competence within the legal profession.