Chief justice says he didn’t buy his job
A statement in a law enforcement report might imply that the chief justice of the N.M. Supreme Court may have paid a bribe in exchange for his judgeship, but Charles W. Daniels says he did no such thing.
“I did not buy this position,” Daniels told NMPolitics.net. “No one ever asked me to, and I never would have entertained the idea.”
The implication about Daniels comes from a statement attributed to Third Judicial District Judge Mike Murphy, who was indicted earlier this month on bribery charges stemming from allegations of widespread judicial bribery. Murphy was allegedly talking with Norm Osborn, the Third Judicial District Court’s staff attorney, when he said this:
“Judge Murphy also stated that if he was guilty of buying a judgeship, then what does that make Chief Justice (Charlie) Daniels.”
The statement is included in a public incident report detailing the allegations against Murphy. There’s no context for the statement or any other clues about what Murphy might believe Daniels did.
While cautioning that it would be inappropriate for him to comment on the case against Murphy because he has a role in reviewing the judicial process – he’s already twice appointed judges to oversee the case – Daniels rejected any notion that he did or would pay a bribe for a judicial appointment.
“I don’t know who said what in all these multiple hearsay layers of he-said, she-said,” Daniels told NMPolitics.net. “But I do know if anybody claims I bought my position, they don’t know what they’re talking about, they don’t know my qualifications for this job, and they certainly don’t know my character.”
Law enforcement reports allege that Murphy said he paid money in exchange for his appointment from former Gov. Bill Richardson in 2006, and that he told another potential judicial applicant that she had to do the same. The money allegedly went to Las Cruces politico Edgar Lopez, who Murphy said gave it to Richardson. It’s worth noting that Murphy is charged with soliciting a bribe from the potential applicant but not with paying a bribe for his position.
Though Murphy allegedly said he gave $4,000 to Richardson in exchange for his appointment, NMPolitics.net has been able to locate only $410 in campaign contributions from Murphy and his wife.
Witness statements aren’t clear about whether Murphy’s alleged bribe was a campaign contribution or simply a cash payment.
No one besides Murphy has been charged or received notice that they may be indicted, but the investigation is ongoing. The Albuquerque Journal quoted special prosecutor Matt Chandler last week as saying that the “boundaries” of the investigation “have expanded,” but he wouldn’t explain how.
Richardson appointed Daniels in 2007 after Daniels was among a handful of candidates recommended by a bipartisan nominating commission. Daniels has been a lawyer for 38 years in the Albuquerque area and has taught at the University of New Mexico School of Law.
According to FollowTheMoney.org, Daniels gave $200 to Richardson’s gubernatorial re-election campaign in 2006. His wife, attorney Randi McGinn, gave $3,000 to Richardson in 2002 and $5,000 to Richardson in 2006.
Update, 10:15 a.m.
McGinn also gave $2,300 to Richardson’s presidential campaign in February 2007, according to OpenSecrets.org.
A prior version of this article incorrectly stated that Murphy is charged with paying a bribe for his position.