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Court rules against NM Gov. Martinez in labor Union case

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nmbluesky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-14-11 08:29 AM
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Court rules against NM Gov. Martinez in labor Union case
A unanimous state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Gov. Susana Martinez lacked authority to arbitrarily remove two members of the state Public Employee Labor Relations Board.

The court ordered Martinez to reinstate John Boyd, an Albuquerque lawyer nominated to the board by organized labor, and Duff Westbrook, another Albuquerque lawyer, who was nominated by other members of the board charged with enforcing a state collective-bargaining law.

The court agreed with arguments by Shane Youtz, who represented the New Mexico Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, that the board should maintain independence from the executive branch because by its very nature it decides cases involving the executive branch.

Youtz told the justices that of 43 cases pending before the board at the time of the firings, 17 directly involved the governor.

The Martinez administration forced out the board's executive director, Pam Gentry, in early February. Later that month, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 18 filed an emergency motion with the labor board, asking that it hire a new director. The next day, Martinez fired the three-member board.

Under state law, the board consists of one member nominated by labor unions representing state employees, one nominated by management and a neutral member agreed upon by the other two members.

In questioning the governor's chief counsel, Jessica Hernandez, Justice Richard Bosson said he couldn't understand why Martinez would fire the board without having replacements in hand. He noted the board hasn't functioned since the firings and said the administration opened itself up to accusations of interfering with the board.

Hernandez said the governor relied on a previous Supreme Court ruling involving former Gov. Bill Richardson, who replaced the governor's six appointees on the state Judicial Standards Commission at the outset of his administration. The high court in that case sided with Richardson.

A Martinez spokesman issued a statement after Wednesday's ruling that said: "By its own admission, the Supreme Court carved out an exception to existing law. The Supreme Court's last decision regarding a governor's removal authority made clear that the Court would not limit a governor's removal power over appointees unless the Constitution or the Legislature expressly imposed such a limitation. In their decision today, the Supreme Court chose not to apply its own previous ruling to the Public Employee Labor Relations Board."

But Justice Patricio Serna, who publicly read the court's decision, and Bosson pointed out that there are differences. First, the law that established the Labor Relations Board specifies that labor unions nominate a member of the board. The Judicial Standards Commission has no such requirement for any of its members.

Secondly, the justices pointed out, the Judicial Standards Commission does not decide on cases dealing with the Governor's Office.

The labor group's legal action didn't ask for the reinstatement of the third fired labor board member, Martin Dominguez, who represented management. Martinez recently appointed lawyer Wayne Bingham to that position.

It's not clear what will happen with the executive director's position. The board could decide to rehire Gentry or choose another director.

Justice Charles Daniels, a former law partner of Boyd, recused himself from the hearing.

This is the second time the Supreme Court has ruled against an action by Martinez. In January, the court unanimously decided that Martinez acted improperly when she requested the state's records administrator delay publishing greenhouse-gas emissions rules that the state Environmental Improvement Board approved shortly before she took office.
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LiberalFighter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-14-11 09:14 AM
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1. The court should not have stated that she should reinstate them.
They should have simply stated that the removal of the two board members is null and void.
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