- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 26, 2016

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - A Republican district court judge from Albuquerque has been appointed to oversee criminal proceedings against former Sen. Phil Griego after nine Santa Fe-based judges stepped aside or were excused.

Brett Loveless, an Albuquerque-based judge with the Second District Court, will commute to Santa Fe to preside over the case against Griego, a Democrat and former Santa Fe City Council member.

Griego is accused of using his role as a legislator to profit from the 2014 sale of a state-owned building in downtown Santa Fe. He recently pleaded not guilty to charges including fraud, bribery and tampering with public records.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Daniels appointed Loveless with the prior consent of Griego’s attorney and the New Mexico attorney general’s office.

Loveless won election in 2014 as a district court judge after his appointment by Gov. Susana Martinez. He previously worked as a prosecutor with the Bernalillo County district attorney’s office.

Griego resigned from public office in 2015 after acknowledging to a Senate investigative subcommittee that he violated the state Constitution.

The scandal has stoked calls for ethics and campaign oversight reforms. Efforts to create an independent state ethics commission were derailed by a Senate committee in February over worries that it could become a forum for false accusations.

Prosecutors are running into resistance as they seek out documents from the Legislature concerning Griego’s role in the 2014 land deal.

The Legislative Council Service has said it is duty-bound to protect privileged communications between lawmakers, including Griego, and its aides and attorneys who help draft legislation.

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