NM Supreme Court rules against citizen petitions against governor’s COVID response

SANTA FE, N.M. – The New Mexico Supreme Court’s ruling Monday legally invalidated citizen-initiated petitions to convene grand juries investigating Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s COVID-19 response.

The court’s ruling cited Article 2, Section 14 of the New Mexico Constitution – which allows citizens to submit petitions to a state district court to convene a grand jury to investigate alleged criminal conduct or wrongdoing by a public official. The court determined that grand jury petitions filed in Chaves, Eddy and Lea counties ‘only describe lawful, noncriminal activity’.

The Monday ruling directs district court judges to deny the three grand jury petitions and similar petitions elsewhere in the state, given they are out of the boundaries of what a grand jury can investigate.

The governor filed a case last November with the state Supreme Court, challenging the validity of the three citizen grand jury petitions. The lawsuit noted it was difficult to determine how many petitions were filed or how to respond as the proceedings are sealed and confidential.

The court’s order also directs a judicial committee to consider possible rule changes that would require a notice to the public official at the center of the grand jury petition and allow them to intervene in the case.

A judicial committee will also consider whether rules should specifically require the district court to rule on the legal validity of a petition looking to convene a grand jury. At the moment, Article 2, Section 14 of the state constitution states the district court should order a grand jury if a petition is filed with signatures from 200 or more registered voters or 2% of the county’s registered voters.