Former Air Force lawyer appointed to federal magistrate court

Justin Garcia
Las Cruces Sun-News

LAS CRUCES – A Las Cruces attorney who served as a U.S. Air Force lawyer became a federal magistrate judge in Las Cruces last week.

Damian L. Martínez, formerly of Las Cruces law firm Mynatt, Martínez and Springer P.C., began working as a federal magistrate judge on March 10.

Federal magistrate judges oversee a wide range of judicial responsibilities. Those duties include conducting preliminary hearings in criminal cases, trials and dispositions of misdemeanor cases, and other pretrial hearings in civil cases.

“Judge Martínez’ proven legal abilities combined with his strong work ethic make him well qualified for the position of a United States Magistrate Judge,” Chief District Judge William Johnson said in a news release.

Martínez brings a 20-year history of legal work in New Mexico, Texas and across the U.S. to his new role. According to a news release and publicly available resume information, Martínez graduated from New Mexico Highlands University in 1998 with a Bachelor’s in Social Work. He received his Juris Doctorate from San Antonio’s St. Mary’s University School of Law in 2001 before serving as an Assistant Staff Judge Advocate with the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General Corps.

In that role, Martínez pursued criminal prosecutions. He also served as a special assistant U.S. attorney in New Mexico and Northern Texas.

Martinez joined Mynatt, Martínez and Springer P.C. in 2005. According to their website, Martínez was one of the firm’s shareholders. Martínez covered civil defense cases, including constitutional violations, tort claims, employment and labor disputes, personal injury claims, civil rights matters, and contract law.

Martínez' was also a Northern New Mexico College Board of Regents member from 2015 to 2021.

Jocelyn Garrison, acting city attorney, also confirmed that the City employed Martinez and his firm to handle litigation against the City of Las Cruces. Martinez represented the City in a civil rights lawsuit stemming from the fatal arrest of Antonio Valenzuela in 2020.

With Martínez' appointment to the federal bench, pending cases involving the City were transferred to other members of his former firm, according to Garrison.

A vote of active district judges appoints federal magistrate judges. The appointment term lasts eight years.

Martínez fills a seat left open by the resignation of Carmen Garza in September 2022. Garza resigned amid allegations she’d instituted a hostile work environment during her decade on the bench. The allegation resulted in an investigation, followed by her resignation. Garza denied the allegations.

The federal magistrate court in Las Cruces will hold a swearing-in ceremony in the coming weeks. 

Justin Garcia covers crime, courts, public safety and local government in Las Cruces. He can be reached via email at, via phone or text at 575-541-5449, or on Twitter @Just516Garc.

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