- Associated Press - Thursday, January 8, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The practice of hiring private lawyers to file lawsuits on behalf of the New Mexico attorney general’s office is under review, newly elected Attorney General Hector Balderas said Thursday.

During his first news conference as the state’s top law enforcer, Balderas said he was aware of a New York Times story in December that showed how more attorneys general are hiring private law firms to file lawsuits. The story, which featured former New Mexico Attorney General Gary King, reported that private lawyers search public records for potential cases then approach attorneys general.

State officials hire the firms to do the necessary legwork, and in return, the firms get a percentage of any money won in a court case.

Some of the private lawyers also donated to the campaigns of attorneys general, the newspaper reported.

Balderas said he would examine whether the practice compromises the integrity of the office and will decide if his office should “reform any process” with the private firms.

“Those issues are under review,” Balderas said. “We are now studying reforms to make sure that we protect the integrity of the attorney general’s jurisdiction.”

Balderas said he also was concerned about protecting taxpayer dollars.

He made his comments after announcing the creation of a criminal affairs division and unveiling improvements to the special victims and corruption prosecution divisions. In addition, Balderas said prosecutors will have access to more training and professional development.

The attorney general said one of his priorities would be to go after people who create and promote child pornography within the state’s boundaries.

Balderas also said his office would aggressively seek to end plea agreements for violent offenders and it would go after public corruption.

“A message needs to be sent that justice is not for sale,” he said.

Balderas is taking over the position as the attorney general’s office is investigating a district attorney over bribery claims and is pushing a major case targeting a nursing home chain over allegations of poor care.

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Follow Russell Contreras at https://twitter.com/russcontreras .


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