Sen. Cisco McSorley of Albuquerque told the legislative committee on courts and justice that Martinez had picked two of her Republican friends from the Dona Ana County district attorney's office for family court judgeships, though neither was qualified for the assignment.
McSorley did not name names during the public hearing, and he said afterward that he did not have his background materials at hand. But he appeared to be talking about District Judges Susan Riedel and Jacinto Palomino, both of whom were assistant prosecutors to Martinez when she was district attorney of Dona Ana County.
Martinez appointed Riedel and Palomino to judgeships in February 2011. Each is running for election to the bench this fall.
"The people she picked were her associates in the DA's office. They had no background for these highly specialized positions," McSorley said in an interview. "If you hitch onto a rising star, you don't need to be the best lawyer. You just need to have the best of friends."
During the committee hearing, McSorley accused Martinez, through her appointments, of showing "more disrespect to the judiciary" than any governor except Gary Johnson. Johnson, who was a Republican then, served from 1995 through 2002.
Scott Darnell, Martinez's press secretary, said McSorley's
"She has appointed well-qualified individuals to the bench," Darnell said.
He also pointed out that candidates for vacant judgeships are submitted to the governor by a bipartisan nominating commission. It determines which candidates are qualified to serve, and the governor interviews the commission's finalists and selects from the list provided to her.
McSorley said he was stunned that Martinez's choices made it through the nominating committee.
Since becoming a judge Riedel has stressed her experience and independence.
During her campaign, she has pointed to a ruling in which she denied a motion by the Dona Ana district attorney to cancel an election in scandal-filled Sunland Park.
Palomino also has talked about his experience, 15 years as a prosecutor and 17 years as an officer in JAG the military Judge Advocate General's Corps.
In addition to Riedel and Palomino, Martinez appointed a third of her former prosecutors to a district judgeship. He is Nelson Goodin, who was general counsel for the state Tax and Revenue Department when Martinez chose him last spring.
No other member of the committee on courts and justice responded to McSorley's criticisms of the governor during the hearing.