- Associated Press - Friday, July 4, 2014

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Attorney General Gary King is asking the New Mexico Supreme Court for permission to intervene in a lawsuit on behalf of a disabled veteran who was fired by the state after serving two tours in Iraq.

King, a Democrat who is running against Gov. Susana Martinez, says the state should have already settled the case in favor of the veteran.

In 2009, a jury in Gallup award $100,000 to Phillip Ramirez, a National Guard serviceman with post-traumatic stress disorder who claimed his firing from the New Mexico Children, Youth and Family Department violated the Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. The act requires employers to accommodate veterans’ disabilities.

Ramirez says his PTSD caused him problems at work while his supervisors added additional goals he found impossible to meet, and that’s when he was fired for what managers called insubordination.

The state agency appealed the case, and it was reversed by the New Mexico Court of Appeals.

King called the agency’s actions an affront to all New Mexico veterans.

“What has happened to Mr. Ramirez is so wrong on so many levels,” he said in a statement. “How can anybody look a veteran in the eye and say, ‘We’ve got your back soldier?’ The state, as an employer, should give the same consideration to returning veterans as all private employers are required to do by federal law.”

Martinez spokesman Enrique Knell questioned King’s sudden interest in the case.

“This man was fired twice by the Richardson administration for insubordination and not showing up to work for long periods of time, first in 2008 and then again in 2010, and it’s fascinating that Gary King said nothing for six years and, just as his campaign is floundering, he suddenly gets involved,” Knelll said in an email.

The family agency is claiming state sovereign immunity from lawsuits under the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Ramirez’s attorney, Rosario Vega Lynn, said the case is among several similar lawsuits against three separate state agencies that are being sued for military civil rights violations.

“All three agencies have attempted to assert immunity and we know none of them sought the AG’s opinion about it,” Lynn said. “So they are all either grossly exceeding their authority, or they are acting on the orders of the governor or at the very least, with the approval of the governor.”

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