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State of New Mexico

History of Reform Efforts: New Mexico

Formal Changes Since Inception

1912
Supreme court justices elected by the people to eight-year terms. District court judges elected to six-year terms.

1952
Governor Mechem created an ad hoc judicial nominating commission to recommend candidates to fill judicial vacancies. All governors after Mechem used some form of voluntary merit selection until voters approved Amendment 6 in 1988.

1965
Court of appeals created. Judges elected by the people to eight-year terms.

1988
New Mexico voters approved Amendment 6, which established a hybrid system of judicial selection. Vacancies would be filled by the governor from a nominating commission list. Appointees would run in contestable partisan elections in the next general election and in retention elections thereafter. Constitutional amendments calling for merit selection had been rejected by voters in 1951 and 1982. Supporters of the 1988 effort included Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, New Mexicans for the Improvement of the Judicial System, and a group called Court Update. Many district court judges also endorsed the plan, but a majority of the supreme court's members opposed it.

1994
Required affirmative vote percentage for retention increased to 57%.