New Mexico


Domestic Case Law

In re Schwartz New Mexico Supreme Court (2011)

Sexual harassment

This is a proceeding for the disciplining of Schwartz, a trial court judge. Judge Robert Schwartz initiated a romantic relationship with an assistant public defender with cases before him. The assistant public defender informed her supervisor of Judge Schwartz’s planned recusal via a voice message. In the following days, Judge Schwartz provided dishonest reasons for his recusal from some cases involving the assistant public defender, and entered rulings in some other cases involving the assistant public defender.

Nava v. Santa Fe New Mexico Supreme Court (2004)

Sexual harassment

Nava has been a police office since 1993. In 2000, according to Nava, Gallegos, one of Nava’s supervisors, harassed her almost daily. Gallegos checked on her location more than other officers, raised his voice to her, denied her many of the same privileges male officers were afforded, followed her to her house to monitor how long she took on bathroom breaks, assigned rape calls to her even when other officers were closer to the scene of the crime, and threw a file folder at her on one occasion. Nava brought a sexual harassment claim based on a hostile work environment theory under the New Mexico Human Rights Act. At trial the jury awarded Nava $285,000 in damages. The trial court subsequently reduced the amount to $90,250 on the city’s motion. Both parties appealed.

Littell v. Allstate Ins. Co. New Mexico Court of Appeals (2007)

Sexual harassment

Littell worked as a paralegal for Allstate in 1996. Aakhus, Littell’s supervisor, regularly told demeaning jokes, touched women inappropriately, commented about other employees’ sexual preferences, and tolerated similar behaviors by other coworkers. After Littell anonymously reported Aakhus to Allstate headquarters, Aakhus started to belittle her in public, disciplined her for pretextual reasons, and became more aggressive in general. Littell eventually left her job after Aakhus denied her leave to deal with a “family crisis.” Aakhus was discharged after Littell left Allstate. Littell subsequently sued Allstate, alleging, among other things, sexual harassment and retaliatory discharge. The jury reached a verdict in favor of Littell, awarding her $360,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages. Allstate appealed.

Ocana v. Am. Furniture Co. New Mexico Supreme Court (2004)

Sexual harassment

Ocana worked for the Santa Fe store of the American Furniture Co. (“AFC”) from July, 1997 to November 1998.On January 10, 2000, Ocana, acting pro se, filed a complaint in a trial court, charging AFC with, among other things, sexual harassment in violation of the NMHRA.In particular, Ocana claimed that the store manager touched himself in suggestive ways, stared at her breasts, and parked next to her even when he had a different, dedicated parking spot.AFC moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of AFC, reasoning that “there was no evidence corroborating Ocana’s claims of sexual harassment; there were no witnesses and no evidence that she complained about the harassment until after she was fired; and she had been disciplined for as many as 14 major mistakes.”Ocana appealed.The Supreme Court of New Mexico reversed, holding that genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment on employee’s sexual harassment claims under the New Mexico Human Rights Act (“NMHRA”).

Sabella v. Manor Care, Inc. New Mexico Supreme Court (1996)

Sexual harassment

Sabella worked for Manor Care, Inc. (“Manor”) from 1989 to 1990. Sabella claimed that her supervisor sexually harassed her and retaliated against her rejections by assigning her to less desirable jobs. On February 8, 1990, Sabella filed a grievance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”), but not with the New Mexico Human Rights Division (the “NMHRD”). While the investigation was pending, Sabella filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, claimed injuries such as bruised breast and emotional trauma due to sexual assaults. Sabella and Manor eventually settled the workers’ compensation claim. She signed an agreement that discharged Manor all current and future liabilities under the Workers’ Compensation Act. On August 24, 1993, Sabella received an order of non-determination from the NMHRD. Sabella appealed the order to the trial court. Manor filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that Sabella had not exhausted her administrative remedies as required by the NMHRA. Id. at 902-03. Manor specifically pointed out that Sabella had not filed her grievance with the NMHRD. Id. The trial court granted Manor’s motion to dismiss. Sabella appealed.

State v. Gonzales New Mexico Court of Appeals (1997)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

On July 15, 1994, a domestic violence protective order involving Gonzales and Wife was entered. The order contained a “stay away” provision, one that prohibited Gonzales from visiting Wife’s workplace. Five days later, on July 15, 1994, Gonzales was arrested for being at Wife’s workplace. The trial court found that Gonzales had violated the protective order in contempt and sentenced him to jail. Five days later, on July 25, 1994, Gonzales was again charged, this time for criminal false imprisonment, battery, stalking, and harassment. The July 25 charges were based on the same encounter as the July 20 conviction. Gonzales filed a motion to dismiss on the charges of stalking and harassment. He argued that the July 20 conviction for contempt should preclude a successive prosecution on stalking and harassment. Following this “double jeopardy” theory, the trial court dismissed the sexual harassment and stalking claims. The state appealed.

State v. McGee New Mexico Court of Appeals (2004)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

A protective order prohibiting domestic violence involving McGee and Wife was filed on July 1, 1999, under the Family Violence Protection Act (“FVPA”). The order prohibited McGee from writing to, talking to, visiting, or contacting Wife. On February 16, 2000, McGee made several phone calls to Wife from the Otero County Detention Center. Based on these facts, the trial court convicted McGee for four counts of violation of the protective order and gave McGee six consecutive sentences. McGee appealed, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction and the “double jeopardy” theory barred the six consecutive sentences.