SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A Ruidoso lawyer selected for a southern New Mexico judgeship changed her party affiliation to Republican from Democrat on the day of her appointment, but the attorney said Friday that GOP Gov. Susana Martinez didn’t ask for the party switch.
The governor’s office said that Angie Schneider was selected on merit and her party affiliation is “her personal choice.”
“Angie was the most well-qualified and prepared candidate for the position, and she has a strong reputation in the legal community,” Enrique Knell, a spokesman for the governor, said in a statement. “Gov. Martinez is confident that Angie will serve the people of Lincoln County well.”
Schneider said in an email that the governor didn’t ask her to change party affiliation and she previously had planned the switch back to being a Republican.
“In the final analysis, I do not believe judges should be partisan because the law is not partisan,” she said.
Schneider was one of two lawyers recommended to the governor for possible appointment to the 12th Judicial District judgeship by a bipartisan judicial nominating commission. There were seven applicants for the position.
Voter registration records released by the Lincoln County clerk’s office show that Schneider changed her party affiliation to Republican on Wednesday — the day her appointment was made by the governor and publicly announced. She had registered as a Democrat on Jan. 14, but previously had been a Republican.
Schneider said she waited to make the party change “until after I had applied for the judgeship and after my name was submitted because I didn’t want the issue of my party affiliation to become an issue in the selection process.”
“I do not believe party affiliation should be an issue in the selection process and to my knowledge, it never was,” she said.
Schneider said the voter registration change occurred Wednesday because she was in court that day in Carrizozo, where the Lincoln County clerk’s office is located.
“I simply acted on a decision I had already made,” she said in the email statement.
Schneider said she “grew up in a conservative Republican family in Nebraska” but has been registered as Republican, as well as a Democrat, over the years.
She will replace District Court Judge William Brogan, who resigned in May to avoid possible disciplinary action by the state Supreme Court.
Under the state Constitution, an appointed judge must run in a partisan election in the next general election. The judicial district covers Republican-leaning Lincoln and Otero counties, which could have made it difficult for a Democrat to win in a contested judicial race. The winner of the general election will then be subject to nonpartisan retention elections.
Brogan won election to the court in 2010. He defeated a newly appointed district court judge in the GOP primary election that year and then was unopposed in the general election.
Schneider received her law degree in 2001 from the University of New Mexico. She has operated her own law practice since last year and worked in other law firms for a decade. She was a state public defender in 2001-2003.