ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Ken Gonzales on Friday became New Mexico’s newest federal judge, ending a 14-year career as a federal prosecutor that included the creation of several programs aimed at fighting high rates of crime and violence in Indian Country.
For Gonzales, who grew up surrounded by Indian communities in northern New Mexico, that fight developed into a personal priority during his tenure as the 44th U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico. His office was the first in the country to establish a team of prosecutors devoted specifically to Indian Country and it was the second to participate in a pilot project that aimed to train tribal prosecutors in federal law.
Gonzales’s office also cracked down on large-scale drug trafficking operations, established a civil rights unit and collected millions of dollars in forfeitures, penalties and criminal and civil fines.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the United States and the people of New Mexico,” Gonzales said in a statement.
He added that he’s now humbled by the opportunity to serve the public as a federal judge.
Gonzales resigned from his post as U.S. attorney on Thursday. He took his judicial oath of office Friday afternoon.
Gonzales was appointed to replace retiring U.S. District Judge Bruce Black of Santa Fe. The seat is being moved to Las Cruces because of the high caseloads in southern New Mexico.
A graduate of Pojoaque High School, Gonzales received his undergraduate and law degrees at the University of New Mexico. He began his career as federal prosecutor in Las Cruces. In 2010, he was appointed U.S. attorney.
Gonzales has served as a judge advocate in the U.S. Army Reserve since 2001 and is an adjunct professor of criminal law at the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School in Virginia.