- Associated Press - Thursday, November 12, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Gov. Susana Martinez selected District Court Judge Judith Nakamura on Thursday to fill a seat on the New Mexico Supreme Court, calling her an advocate for public safety who has shown “tremendous leadership” in the state’s court system.

Nakamura, 55, is a longtime Albuquerque resident and a University of New Mexico law school graduate who previously served as chief judge in Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court before moving to the Second Judicial District Court in 2013.

She will have to seek election next year if she wants to keep the seat being vacated by retiring Supreme Court Justice Richard Bosson.

“I’m proud to appoint her to our highest court because she has devoted her career to upholding justice, and I’m confident she will continue to serve New Mexico with integrity,” Martinez, a Republican, said in a statement, announcing the appointment.

Before graduating from law school, Nakamura was a political director for the state GOP, a staffer of former Sen. Pete V. Domenici, and special assistant on President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 inauguration committee, according to her application to serve on the Supreme Court.

She was elected to the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court in 1998, where she was chief judge from 2002 to 2013. While on the bench, she served on advisory committees to the Supreme Court, weighing in on budget matters and the high court’s Chief Judges Council.

The Albuquerque Bar Association named Nakamura Outstanding Judge of the Year in 2004. She is on the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta’s board of directors and an avid hot air balloon pilot.

The state Judicial Nominating Commission recommended Nakamura and three other candidates to Gov. Susana Martinez as finalists last month for the position, after narrowing the field of applicants by half.

The other finalists were Gary Clingman, of Hobbs, who is a judge in New Mexico’s Fifth District Court in southeastern New Mexico; Linda Vanzi, a state appeals court judge in Albuquerque; and Michael Vigil, chief judge for the New Mexico Court of Appeals.

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