Governor, ex-DA cans state’s top public defender

Posted: February 17, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Hugh Dangler (Photo from New Mexico's Public Defender website)

The state’s top public defender is looking for work.

Governor Susana Martinez, the former Las Cruces district attorney, fired New Mexico’s Chief Public Defender, Hugh Dangler, on Wednesday.

“He was let go as part of our ongoing process of reviewing boards, commissions, and appointments,” Gov. Martinez spokesman Scott Darnell confirmed in an e-mail. “We continue to take applications from interested individuals for all appointee positions on the Governor’s website. The selection process for a new chief public defender is underway.”

Dangler, an appointee of former Gov. Bill Richardson, replaced John Bigelow in June 2008. The University of New Mexico law school graduate did not return a telephone message Thursday.

Employees of the public defenders office on Wednesday received a brief e-mail announcing the decision.

Dangler told the Santa Fe Reporter’s Wren Abbott the following:

“To do [the termination] in the middle of the Legislative session appears to send a chilling message. If this is an example of boldness then I fear for the state.”

He also suggested to Abbott that his recent testimony to legislative committees about budget woes and public defender office vacancy rates (rates higher than the DAs offices around the state) may have been the cause of the timing of the firing.

The firing itself is by no means a surprise. A couple attorneys around Santa Fe I spoke with seemed to think it would have happened withing the first couple weeks of January after Gov. Martinez took office.


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