ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The Senate on Monday voted unanimously to confirm New Mexico U.S. Attorney Ken Gonzales as the state’s next federal judge, and New Mexico’s senators immediately recommended one of his assistants be appo inted to replace him.
Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, both Democrats, sent President Barack Obama a letter recommending that Damon Martinez replace Gonzales. Martinez has served as an assistant U.S. attorney since 2001 and currently supervises the Organized Crime and Gang Section in Albuquerque.
“Damon has shown a strong commitment to justice throughout his exemplary legal career,” the senators said in a statement. “His strong prosecutorial background, education and commitment to upholding the law will make him a great U.S. Attorney.”
Martinez began his career as a federal prosecutor in Las Cruces and transferred to Albuquerque in 2005. He has also served as an assistant attorney general and worked for both Udall and former Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., in Washington.
Martinez is an Albuquerque native and graduate of St. Pius X High School. He holds a law degree, a master’s of business and two undergraduate degrees from the University of New Mexico. He was also a Judge Advocate in the U.S. Army Reserve until 2009, when he transferred to the New Mexico National Guard. He recently returned from a deployment to Sinai, Egypt.
In a statement, Gonzales said he is “humbled by the opportunity to continue to serve the public in a judicial capacity.”
He says he will stay on as U.S. attorney for a brief period to ensure a smooth transition before taking his judicial oath.
Gonzales was appointed to replace retiring U.S. District Judge Bruce Black of Santa Fe. But the seat will be moved to Las Cruces because of high caseloads in southern New Mexico.
Gonzales is a graduate of Pojoaque High School. He received his undergraduate and law degrees at the University of New Mexico. He began his career as federal prosecutor in Las Cruces. He has also served as a law clerk to former chief justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court, Joseph Baca, and later as a legislative assistant to Bingaman on criminal justice, Indian affairs and other issues.
He has also served as a judge advocate in the U.S. Army Reserve since 2001.