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Report details allegations against Murphy

District Judge Mike Murphy

Indicted judge allegedly said he gave money to get his appointment from then-Gov. Bill Richardson, and others had to do the same; Judge Lisa Schultz reported the situation to law enforcement

Third Judicial District Judge Mike Murphy allegedly said he gave $4,000 to get appointed to the bench by then-Gov. Bill Richardson in 2006, and told several people that other judicial appointees had to give money as well.

That’s according witness statements detailed in an incident report about the bribery case against Murphy. Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler, the special prosecutor in the case, released the report and the grand jury indictment of Murphy today in response to a records request from NMPolitics.net. It’s the first time the facts of the case have been made public.

Read the report and indictment here.

The report details efforts by Third Judicial District Judge Lisa Schultz to work within the judicial system for two years to stop what she apparently believed was a pay-to-play scheme that went all the way to Richardson, and Schultz’s reporting of the situation to then-District Attorney Susana Martinez in 2009 after concluding that nothing was being done.

The report also raises the possibility that other judges, including Third Judicial District Judge Jim T. Martin, were involved in the alleged scheme that has led to felony charges against Murphy.

No one but Murphy has been charged in the case or received notice that a grand jury will consider indicting them. Chandler has declined to comment on whether others might be targeted.

But the report raises questions about the involvement of others including Richardson, Martin and longtime Democratic political insider Edgar Lopez. And it indicates that the investigation is ongoing.

Martin, like Murphy, has retained an attorney because of the investigation, according to the report.

A grand jury indicted Murphy on Friday on third-degree felony charges of demanding or receiving a bribe by a public employee; bribery of a public officer or employee; and bribery, intimidation, or retaliation against a witness, in addition to a fourth-degree felony charge of criminal solicitation.

Chandler’s office also plans to file misdemeanor charges against Murphy under a statute that prohibits certain acts by public officials, according to the report.

The criminal case against Murphy, a Democrat, is largely built on the testimony of several Democrats including Schultz, and one former Democrat who is now a registered independent.

‘Write a check… and deliver it to Edgar Lopez’

Judge Jim T. Martin, shown here talking to Edgar Lopez as both waited to testify before the grand jury earlier this week. (Photo by Heath Haussamen)

The report details events that started in September 2007, when Las Cruces attorney Beverly Singleman, a former Appeals Court judge and the Democrat-turned-independent, was considering applying for a vacancy on the Third Judicial District Court. She asked to meet with Martin to discuss things, and he brought Murphy with him.

Martin, who was appointed to the bench by Richardson in July 2005, didn’t say much at the meeting, Singleman claimed in an affidavit given to investigators. But Murphy, who Richardson appointed in June 2006, had plenty to say.

He told Singleman if she wanted support from the Democratic Party, she needed to join the Dennis Chavez Club – a fundraising group honoring the former senator. Murphy also said she should “write a check to the Democratic Party every week in whatever amount she could afford and deliver it to Edgar Lopez.”

Singleman noted that Martin “listened to Judge Murphy’s entire conversation without objecting.”

Following the meeting, Singleman talked with Schultz about the situation. Schultz, according to the report, began keeping a journal in which she documented interactions related to the situation and “other issues.”

Lopez would allegedly ‘hand-deliver’ envelopes to Richardson

During conversations with Schultz, the report states, Murphy said “they” would make Singleman a judge if, the next time a vacancy came up, Schultz agreed to support “their” choice of Carolyn Baca-Waters, a Las Cruces attorney. Murphy also said “that he and other judges worked closely with Edgar Lopez to pick new judges,” Schultz claimed.

Murphy “told Judge Schultz that Edgar Lopez always chose the new judges in the district,” the report states.

When Schultz protested, according to the report, Murphy said, “Look, I’m not joking. You tell Beverly she had better make weekly payments to Edgar Lopez if she wants the next judgeship.” He said the payments should be given as cash in envelopes.

“Judge Murphy explained that Mr. Edgar Lopez was close friends with the governor and would hand-deliver the envelopes to him,” the report states.

Schultz, who had been appointed to the bench by Richardson in October 2006, called former Appeals Court Judge Rudy Apodaca to ask for advice. He told her that, “as terrible as it sounded, the system in fact did work in the manner described by Judge Murphy,” the report states, adding that “Judge Apodaca told Judge Schultz that it would ruin her career to raise the issue and she should leave it alone.”

Schultz didn’t leave it alone. She had previously asked Norm Osborn, the Third Judicial District Court’s staff attorney, for an opinion. He wrote in a Sept. 24, 2007 memo that Murphy’s conduct was inappropriate and could be interpreted as “offering political influence in return for campaign contributions,” according to the report. Osborn urged Schultz to “consider referring this matter to the Judicial Standards Commission and to do so without delay.”

Schultz didn’t want to do that. She wrote in her journal that the majority of the commission’s members were appointed by Richardson, and the commission, which investigates ethical complaints against judges, had power over her.

Schultz wrote that she believed “the scheme also involved Governor Richardson,” and she did not feel comfortable “turning in Governor Richardson to his own board.”

Murphy, Martin ‘promised’ to stop, Schultz claims

Judge Lisa Schultz, shown here leaving the grand jury room after testifying on Friday. (Photo by Heath Haussamen)

Schultz instead talked with Robert E. Robles, then the chief judge in the Third Judicial District and now an Appeals Court judge. Robles asked if Schultz wanted him to confront Murphy. Schultz wrote in her journal that she decided to do it herself.

“Then Judge Schultz challenged both Murphy and Martin on their behavior in soliciting contributions from judicial candidates, and informed them that this was both wrong and unethical,” the report states. “Judge Martin did not argue or disagree with Judge Schultz, but instead remained silent and indicated his understanding of her accusations with a nod of his head.”

“She told them that they should not do it again and both judges promised to comply,” the report states.

The report isn’t specific, but it states that over the course of the next year “several things” led Schultz to believe that Murphy and Martin “may still be influencing the selection process.”

So she spoke with Supreme Court Justice Petra Maes about the situation. Maes referred her to Appeals Judge James Wechsler, who chairs the Supreme Court’s advisory committee on the Code of Judicial Conduct. At Maes’ suggestion, Schultz also spoke with several female district judges at a statewide meeting.

All but one of those women advised her to report the situation to law enforcement, the report states. Fourth Judicial District Judge Abigail Aragon, on the other hand, told her not to feel pressured to turn in Murphy, saying Schultz’s concerns about loved ones or herself being physically threatened, and her career ruined, “were not unfounded.”

Wechsler later told Schultz that “too much time had passed” since Murphy’s appointment, the report states, “and nothing could be done at this point, but he would keep a record of their conversation for future reference.”

That’s over… we’re going to have a new governor’

During Schultz’s conversation with the female judges, Eleventh Judicial District Judge Sandra Price recommended that Schultz secretly record a conversation with Murphy. According to the report, she did just that.


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Here’s a portion of what is said on the recording, which Schultz later turned over to law enforcement:

“Judge Schultz said to Murphy, ‘Do you remember when I asked you and Judge Martin about the fact that you guys had mentioned to judicial candidates that they, it would help their chances to give money to Edgar Lopez and hence the governor, blah, blah, blah, blah?’”

“Judge Murphy responded and said, ‘Yeah, of course, that’s over now, because we’re going to have a new governor.’”

Schultz also asked Murphy whether that sort of behavior happened with the appointment of Manuel I. Arrieta to the bench in December 2008, and Murphy said it had not.

Schultz reports the situation to law enforcement

Sometime in 2009, after “reporting the information to several sources” and concluding that “Judge Murphy and Judge Martin’s wrongdoings were being overlooked,” Schultz reported the situation to then-DA Martinez, a Republican who is now governor. Martinez appointed the Republican Chandler to investigate because of the conflict created by investigating a judge in the court in which Martinez’s office prosecutes cases.

The report details interviews investigators conducted with Murphy, Martin, Lopez and others. Martin, the report states, was asked if giving money in exchange for an appointment was common practice. From the report:

“…he indicated that to be nominated for a judgeship, a person has to get on the list, and the governor appoints from that list. Judge Martin said the governor picks someone who is active in the party. ‘A way to show that you’re active in the party is to make donations to the party, participate in events, go to fundraisers, help a particular campaign, be a good democrat or republican. That’s kind of the nature of politics, you have to be actively involved in the game.’”

Murphy told investigators he did not remember meeting with Singleman or telling her to make donations. He asked to be allowed to take a polygraph test, then never agreed to take it, the report states.

Lopez told investigators that he had been involved in judicial appointments, and said Martin was appointed instead of Murphy in 2003 because Murphy “did not pay Edgar homage.”

After Martin got the 2003 appointment, Lopez told investigators, Murphy asked to meet with him.

“Murphy came in the door and he says I want to give. I understand I have to come see you,” Lopez told investigators. “…And he said well I’m sorry. I’m here to do whatever I need to do.”

Later in the interview, Lopez told investigators there had been talk “that he is the person that gets the judges appointed, and that this is just not the case.”

Murphy said he gave $4K for appointment, Bridgforth claims

Investigators also interviewed former Third Judicial District Judge Stephen Bridgforth, who relayed conversations he had with Murphy and Lopez.

Bridgforth, who was not appointed by Richardson, told investigators that Murphy said a person had to make a “significant donation” to be appointed to a judgeship by Richardson. Murphy told Bridgforth he gave $4,000 to Richardson.

NMPolitics.net has been able to identify $410 in publicly disclosed campaign contributions from Murphy and his wife to Richardson.

Bridgforth said he told Murphy that it sounded like he was “paying for the position.” Murphy, he claimed, replied by calling Bridgforth old fashioned and saying, “That’s how business is done nowadays.”

Bridgforth, who retired in January, also claimed that Lopez approached him sometime last year and asked him to retire before the end of the year so Richardson could appoint his replacement before he left office.

Lopez said Richardson would appoint Larry Pickett, a Las Cruces attorney, to the bench. Bridgforth said he denied Lopez’s request.

Investigators also spoke with Osborn, who said Murphy told him he had given money to Lopez every month “to influence his appointment process.” Like others, Osborn said Murphy told him that those who want a judicial appointment must give a “substantial amount” in an envelope to Edgar Lopez every month.

The report states that investigators obtained bank records related to Murphy’s finances, but it doesn’t detail what they found.

In the past several weeks, NMPolitics.net has contacted Murphy, Martin, Lopez, Schultz, Robles and a spokeswoman for Richardson seeking comment. All have declined to be interviewed about the situation. Murphy’s attorney has maintained his client’s innocence.

A prior version of this posting incorrectly stated that Martin was appointed in 2003.

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20 comments so far. Scroll down to submit your own comment.

  1. I have known Jim T Martin for many years and I dont believe he should be dragged into this nonsense!!!!

  2. Judge Jim T. Martin is an honest, kind, upstanding man. It is unfair for him to get dragged into this.

  3. This might be a good reason not to make a political donation.

  4. source1…Justice Edward L. Chavez and Chief Judge Charles W. Daniels of the Supreme Court were appointed by Bill Richardson (2 of 5) and Linda M. Vanzi, Michael E. Vigil, Robert E. Robles and Timothy L. Garcia of the Court of Appeals were all appointed by Richardson (4 of 10). Judge Murphy also stated that if he was guilty of buying a judgeship, then what does that make Chief Justice (Charlie) Daniels.
    Heath has done an excellent job in reporting this and the newspapers that have published the news have either used his writings and finds or copied them. He is to be commended–as if he did not pursue the truth in this matter it might not have gotten to the revelation of the true events.
    It really will be nice to see if all the participating parties are pursued. In my opinion it goes much deeper than the judiciary, Richardson and accessories to them. The attorney general’s office is also responsible for not being responsible. Matt Chandler would have been a great attorney general.

  5. Wow. I am speechless, truly.

    I do have a few questions, why did the supreme court reject judicial standards request to remove Murphy from the bench with this type of information?

    How long will it take him to either step down or be removed?

    What liability does the Supreme Court have if, in the meantime, Judge Murphy hurts someone in the courthouse?

    Any citizen that comes before Michael Murphy and Jim T. Martin should be absolutely terrified that one will either rule against them for personal gain or benefit.

    Lisa Schultz should get the highest award given to a NM citizen for bravery and courage. Thank you Judge Schultz! Thank you Matt Chandler and thank you Heath for bringing this to the light. Don’t ever give up, please use this crack in the corruption veil to keep digging. We must rid this once and for all.

    Now I am going to go sit in my chair and deflate. I am shocked and so mad right now that this is what our justice system has become. I don’t even know what else to say!

  6. I find it very interesting that the Las Cruces Sun news doesn’t seem to be publishing any articles that link to the court paperwork or give any details about the testimony that occurred at the grand jury. Are they trying to keep this major case of pervasive judicial corruption quiet so the public really doesn’t know about how bad our judicial system here in Las Cruces is???? I have been checking the Las Cruces sun news daily and they haven’t published anything like this article and I’m wondering why??? A few of us know to go to Heath’s web-site for the best information but most people probably wouldn’t know to go there.

    Also, why is it that our local news of all of this judicial corruption doesn’t get told on the Albuquerque news channels. Maybe if more of our news was passed along up there and throughout the state, these corrupt attorneys and judges wouldn’t keep getting away with this corrupt and unethical behavior????

  7. qofdisks…I believe it correct to say there are three branches of government and they are to be independent of each other. In fact the judicial branch purpose is to determine if the legislative laws are constitutional and constitutional as applied. If the criteria for appointment are to support the executive branch, the purpose of the three branches is defeated. Further, the judicial commission is to recommend the BEST QUALIFIED CANDIDATE (not a contributor to the governor) which includes a non-biased, impartial person of upright integrity. Whether it is $1 or $4000.00 or $400,000.00 is not relevant, the exchange of value for favorable consideration regarding a state actor position does not fall within the definition of upright integrity on the part of either party. Likewise, a prosecutor and an attorney agreeing to give a favorable plea bargain and grant favor later in another cause is not any different that exchanging value for favorable consideration later. Neither is a Judge accepting value from an attorney for a favorable decision in a cause, upright. Neither should be considered acceptable in any manner. Murphy says he paid to be appointed. That action is wrong. It is not an innocent contribution in support of the governor.

  8. That One says, “$4000 to buy a judgeship…absolutely disgusting!”
    Is it just me or does anybody else see this as a ludicrously small amount of money to pay for a judgeship? It is a nice political contribution but hardly constitutes a bribe. I don’t think it was so much as pay to play as pay to show loyalty. Richardson was all about loyalty you know. Why would Richardson appoint someone that does not support him? I am not convinced of wrong doing so much as lambesconando.

  9. Woman Power…do you really believe that with all the talk Murphy did to other judges that Judge Driggers either did not know about this or that Bridgeforth or Robles did not have discussions with him? I believe that if you believe Driggers did not know this you are mistaken. I believe Ms. Schulz should be commended, but Driggers????????????

  10. Thanks Heath for the detailed information regarding this case.

    I want to say that we need to thank Judge Schultz for being so brave and to have the courage to bring this out despite being out numbered by nothing but male judges. She is a hero and a role model for all women.

    Chief Judge Driggers should be thanking Judge Schultz for her speaking up because of her his job as Chief Judge will be so much easier now that he may not have judges like Murphy and Martin no longer being under his tenure and reign as Chief Judge. Judge Driggers now owes it to Judge Schultz to be as respectful with her and honor her for her courage effort.

    WAY TO GO JUDGE SCHULTZ!!! KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!!!

  11. Who gets stuck with the tab for all this stuff. Why the tax payer…both coming and going. Ched your right. Let the light shine in and lets see what or who is behind this. Where are the feds, and again I ask where is our Attorney General?

  12. Great reporting Heath! Unlike the Journal rag that is a day late and a dollar short. This has notched up another political scandal for New Mexico, already infamous for its back room wheeling and dealing at the highest levels. My question is, if all the Murphy contributions reported show just $410, what happened to the rest? It was in cash, so maybe pocket money for the recipient or the courier? Like MJM says, where is our attorney general? Who is he now, by the way?

  13. $4000 to buy a judgeship…absolutely disgusting! To hell with the needs of the people! Change parties but nothing changes. Case in point Richardson and Boehner (the D.C. Speaker/Madam). Two slugs–leaving a trail of slime wherever the go. It is so damn discouraging!

  14. Quote from C. J. McElhinney April 5, 2011 • 7:02 am “So, Mr. Chandler, if you’re reading this, why not bring your case out into the public eye? This is a case involving a public figure and involving a substantial public interest. Put your evidence out there and let the voting public decide if this is a real case of corruption or whether it’s a political witch hunt which most likely reaches the highest perches of state government.”
    I believe the evidence speaks for itself…this is a real case of corruption and reaches the highest perches of present and past state government officials and it should not be tolerated any longer.

  15. Ha !!! Looks like Manny Aragon going to ace a cellmate.

  16. Since this was such common knowledge amongst the local judges, shouldn’t all of the Judges at the third judicial courthouse that were appointed by Richardson during his tenure from 2003-2010 be investigated?

    It is alarming that guilty knowledge was apparently so widespread, and so widely at least, tacitly acceptable to so many who we trust to remain above this kind of thing.

  17. Heath, thank you for such diligent coverage. We are lucky to have you in our area. I read your article and the court paperwork regarding the indictment charges. Although I have never met Judge Schultz and know nothing about her, I have to thank her and I truly respect her for her integrity, ethics, and for having the audacity to bring this to the DA’s office in light of a very valid potential for retaliation against her by the other judges and Richardson. I am not surprised about the Richardson/Lopez process for judicial appointment but I am appalled at how it was such common knowledge amongst the local judges and many of the local attorneys who participate on the judicial nomination committee. I am even further appalled by the complaisance of so many of the judges that Judge Schultz approached for guidance in this matter. After reading this information, several things come to my mind:
    -Why would Judge J.C. Robinson be allowed to preside over this grand Jury when Mr. Osborn had personal knowledge that he and Murphy knew each other and when by Murphy’s own admission to Mr. Norm Osborn, he was glad it was Judge Robinson and that Robinson’s appointment was a “good thing” for him??

    -Why were Judge Martin and Edgar Lopez discussing the case when they were both witnesses waiting to testify? The picture is very telling and looking at the body posture of Mr. Lopez and the facial expression on Judge Martin’s face, they weren’t talking about the weather.

    -How do we know that Murphy’s statement to Judge Schultz about Judge Arrietta’s appointment is truthful and wasn’t just something he said to appease her and lead her to believe that he and the other judges were no longer engaging in this corrupt behavior??

    -The statement that retired appeals Judge Apadoca made to Judge Schultz about “the system working this way” implies that this corruption with judicial appointment is long-standing and pervasive throughout this state. However, it seems to have been extremely rampant during Richardson’s tenure as governor.

    -Since this was such common knowledge amongst the local judges, shouldn’t all of the Judges at the third judicial courthouse that were appointed by Richardson during his tenure from 2003-2010 be investigated?

    -I find it rather strange that Judge Driggers and Judge Macias are not mentioned anywhere at all in these documents when they were both appointed by Richardson. Furthermore, I find it even harder to believe that they weren’t recipients, at some level, of the “Richardson/Lopez judicial appointment process when this was such common knowledge amongst the judges. Are they being investigated????

    -It is frightening to think that the Supreme Court did not suspend Murphy from the bench in light of all of this evidence? How can that be??????

    -I can tell you that these corrupt judges have carried their corruption into their courtrooms and have frequently abused their judicial power. Their corruption and dishonesty exhibits itself by their inability to be impartial in their courtrooms. They clearly make rulings in favor of attorneys they are partial to. They do this because they know that due to the corrupt system, they can get away with this. Even Judge Schultz was worried about retaliation for telling the truth. This should not be happening.
    We need judicial reform immediately!

  18. Has our Attorney General gone missing? Has there been any pay for play scandals that he has lfound out about? Wake up.

  19. So many questions…Three come to mind:

    1. Why was this not referred to the FBI? This is clearly bigger than “Mike Murphy fell in line and coughed up some bucks”–this is a HUGE criminal corruption case. And it obviously goes all the way up the ladder to the big man on top–Richardson.

    2.Is this initial prosecution of minor character Murphy a way to leverage testimonies in a bigger case somewhere down the line?

    3. How will Susanna manage to stay above the fray in all this? She had to know something all these years.

    What really jumps out at one here is what a hero we have in Judge Lisa Schultz. She deserves an award for her courage and integrity. Hopefully that’s what she’ll get, instead of the fate of so many other whistle blowers we hear about today.

    Sadly, what I fear will happen is that one doofus who pretty much spoke the truth and did what he needed to do to swim with the sharks will get pinned on this–and all the rest of the rats will just scurry away into the cracks.

  20. The broad scope of persons in the judiciary with knowledge of the admitted actions as stated herein raises some substantial questions. One being, why would the Supreme Court return this kind of information to the Judicial Standards Commission and not suspend Murphy (the allegations are serious enough that the judge could compromise the judiciary’s integrity)? Two being, ““Lopez told investigators that he had been involved in judicial appointments, and said Martin was appointed instead of Murphy in 2003 because Murphy “did not pay Edgar homage.””, sounds like Lopez feels he is untouchable. Three being, I believe it was correct procedure to appoint an outside the district, district attorney (and I commend Ms. Martinez for appointing an honest one) although it could be said that if Ms. Martinez started revealing wrongdoings on the part of one or more judges in her district, the district judges in return might start revealing some shortcomings of Ms. Martinez. In Ms. Martinez knowing her future plans this could be considered a very safe move on her part. Four being, when “Stout said. “His selection as a judge several years ago was an easy pick and followed the same nominating process that produced all judges in the state and in Las Cruces”—if true, should those facts lead to the investigation of all judges that Richardson appointed? Five being, are we finally going to break the Richardson veil of corruption and his Lopez types of accessories. Being an assessor to a crime is also a crime.
    It is wonderful that all this information has finally come to light. It will be more wonderful if this case would go to a jury, instead of a trial by judge that could lead to a judge judging one of their own. It seems that we have had enough of that in what the facts are revealing. It is good that truth is coming to light, although the factual events are enough to make a maggot puke.

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