- Associated Press - Monday, December 8, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - An eastern New Mexico judge who lost a retention election last month is trying to stay in office by seeking to be appointed to fill the vacancy.

Voters in Quay, De Baca and Harding counties on Nov. 4 rejected District Judge Albert J. Mitchell Jr.’s attempt to remain in office, but New Mexico law doesn’t explicitly say judges cannot be appointed to fill vacancies created by their losses in retention elections, the Albuquerque Journal (https://bit.ly/1zGjjPc ) reported.

Mitchell and fellow Tucumcari attorney Donald Schutte are the only applicants for the resulting vacancy.

A nominating commission is scheduled to meet Thursday in Tucumcari to make a recommendation to Gov. Susana Martinez.

The state Supreme Court last week refused to bar the nominating commission from considering Mitchell’s application because of his retention election loss.

However, the court left open the possibility that if the commission recommends Mitchell and Martinez appoints him, the justices may then decide the issue of whether judges can fill vacancies created by their losses in retention elections.

Martinez is a Republican, and Mitchell ran as a Republican in defeating Schutte, a Democrat, in the 2008 election to be the district’s only judge.

Then-Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, appointed Schutte in 2007 to fill a vacancy in the judgeship due to retirement, but Schutte lost his election bid to Mitchell the next year.

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