Since 1996, the Public Law Section has presented the annual Public Lawyer Award to lawyers who have had distinguished careers in public service and who are not likely to be recognized for their contributions. The ceremony will be held at the State Capitol rotunda in Santa Fe, in conjunction with Law Day ceremonies on May 1 at 4 p.m..
2014 Public Lawyer of the Year Award
Albert J. Lama has been named as the 2014 Public Lawyer of the Year by the SBNM's Public Law Section. He is being recognized for the dedication and distinction of his long career as a public lawyer. Most of that 25-year career has been spent in the New Mexico Attorney General's Office in senior positions, including Director of the Civil Division and his current position of Chief Deputy Attorney General. He was Chief Hearing Officer for the NM Taxation and Revenue Department and served as the District Director in Santa Fe for Congressman Tom Udall. He has participated in training members of the public and other lawyers about public issues, particularly those relative to the Inspection of Public Records Act, Open Meetings Act and ethical issues faced by public lawyers.
Past Award Recipients
2013 - Clifford Rees has dedicated his career to legal services and state
government, especially in advancing the state’s public health and procurement
law. Since retirement, Rees has continued his involvement in public health,
emergency preparedness, and production of ground-breaking laws.
2012 - Pamelya Herndon is the executive director of the Southwest Women's Law Center, and was recognized for her long career in public service and her dedication to public law and the people of New Mexico.
2011 - Tracy Hughes was honored in
recognition of her long and dedicated service to the State of New Mexico,
particularly at the New Mexico Environment Department; her reputation for
excellence; her professionalism; and her mentorship of new attorneys.
2010 - Paula Tackett was honored for her long career in public service that began in 1982 when she joined the Legislative Council Service. She has come to be known as the institutional memory of the legislature and has spent countless hours mentoring attorneys as well as educating law students and the public to enhance open access and knowledge of the legislative process.
2009 - Gerald McBride was honored for his many years of dedicated service to the state’s most vulnerable adults through his work at the Adult Protective Services Division of the New Mexico Aging and Long-Term Services and its predecessors. McBride protected and improved countless lives and inspired those who worked alongside him.
2008 - Clark de Schweinitz was recognized for his long and dedicated service to low-income residents of northern New Mexico as an attorney with the Santa Fe office of New Mexico Legal Aid. He was also recognized for his leadership role in the community, and his years of public service working to improve the lives of New Mexico residents.
2007 - Stuart M. Bluestone
Chief Deputy Attorney General Stuart M. Bluestone was recognized for a career dedicated to public service. He served in four attorney general's administrations and was the top deputy in the AG's office for the vast majority of that time. In that capacity, he was critically involved in numerous legal and administrative decisions affecting the state. Additionally, he assisted in training several attorneys, many of whom subsequently served in important public service positions. Aside from his work at the AG’s office, Bluestone worked for several years as an attorney with the legislative council service, ultimately as deputy director. He also served as chair of the board of directors of New Mexico Legal Aid.
2006 - Frank D. Weissbarth
Frank Weissbarth was recognized for his dedicated service as an Assistant Attorney General specializing in the areas of consumer protection and subdivision law.
2005 - Paul L. Biderman
Paul Biderman was recognized for his dedication to public service and public interest law through his service as legal services attorney, as a government lawyer, as a consumer advocate, as cabinet secretary and finally as a leader at the UNM School of Law Institute of Public Law.
2004 - Robert M. White
Bob White was recognized for his leadership and expertise in the areas of local government law and land use law. White has served as the long-time Albuquerque City Attorney, as an Albuquerque City Councilor and as a leader of state and national municipal attorney organizations.
2003 - Peter T. White
Peter White was recognized for his years of dedicated service as General Counsel for the State Engineer along with his service to community groups concerning water rights after his retirement.
2002 - Jerry Richardson
Jerry Richardson was recognized for his service as chief hearing officer for the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department. In addition to deciding administrative protests in tax matters, Richardson was responsible for oversight of license revocation hearings under the New Mexico Implied Consent Act. In addition to his long career as a public lawyer, Richardson played an active role in the community. He was a founding member of the Friends of the Palace, a support group for the Palace of the Governors Museum. Richardson was a member of the Board of Trustees for the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, serving as chair from 1994-1996. He also spent 10 years on the Public Employees Retirement Board and was chair of the board from 1992-1995.
2001 - Mary McInerny
Mary McInerny was recognized for her distinguished career in the public sector including service at the New Mexico Attorney General's Office, as the Financial Institutions Division Director, as a member of the Public Utility Commission and as County Attorney and County Administrator for Los Alamos County.
2000 - Nick Estes
Nick Estes was recognized for his dedicated and distinguished service as an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, the Albuquerque City Attorney's Office and as University Counsel for the University of New Mexico.
1999 - Marty Daly
Marty Daly was recognized for her distinguished career as a public lawyer, serving as an Assistant District Attorney, the Appellate Public Defender and as an Assistant Attorney General.
1998 - Douglas Meiklejohn
Doug Meiklejohn was recognized both as the pioneering founder of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center and for his dedicated service at the New Mexico Attorney General's Office.
1997 - Frank Katz
Frank Katz was recognized for his leadership as the long-serving General Counsel at the New Mexico Taxation & Revenue Department. Katz also served as a Deputy Attorney General.
1996 - Florenceruth Brown
Florenceruth Brown was recognized for her leadership and service as General Counsel for the New Mexico Health and Environment Department, and for her pioneering role as a female attorney in northern New Mexico.
Each year in January and February, a selection committee (consisting of the past 3 Chairs of the Public Law Section) solicit and review nominations for the Award. The Committee accepts nominations from the public and may also consider nominees from previous years.
The following are factors that will be considered in making this award. An applicant need not meet all of these criteria. The work or service recognized by the award must have occurred in New Mexico. A candidate must be admitted to practice law in New Mexico but does not have to be a member of the Public Law Section to be eligible.
- Significant length of service in government, which does not have to be continuous, or for one specific employer or for work as an attorney.
- Excellence as an attorney/advisor and/or advocate.
- Training or education of the public or bar concerning public issues; mentorship for junior attorneys in the public sector.
- Role model for other public lawyers.
- Involvement in one particularly difficult or important case or negotiation that significantly advanced a governmental policy or purpose.
- Service to social welfare organizations, charitable institutions or nonprofit entities connected with the practice or enhancement of an area of public law.
- Advocacy of or work on issues or legislation of importance in the public sector, such as open meetings and public records, public procurement and administrative procedures.
- A lawyer who is not likely to be recognized for his or her outstanding work as a public lawyer.
- A lawyer whose personal character and dedication to public law and public service furthers the integrity and repute of the legal profession.