Longtime Santa Fe County Magistrate George Anaya Jr. has been censured in part for arranging a violent offender’s release from jail on a Saturday, bypassing prosecutors and violating court protocol, according to the New Mexico Supreme Court.

The high court in December accepted an agreement and consent to discipline between the Judicial Standards Commission and Anaya. Under the agreement, Anaya acknowledged there was sufficient evidence to establish willful misconduct in office. It is his first such violation, according to the high court’s opinion in the case.

“I made a mistake, and I’ve taken responsibility for it,” Anaya said Wednesday. “I’ve learned from it, and I’m moving forward.” The judge, who said previously he won’t seek reelection, declined to comment further.

According to the court opinion, Anaya received a cellphone call April 3, 2020, a Friday, from the father of Danielle Gallegos, who had been arrested and charged with multiple felonies that day. Anaya received a second phone call the next day from the father, Fernando Gallegos, and then signed an order of release freeing Danielle Gallegos pending her trial.

Magistrate Court protocols call for violent offenders to remain in custody until the next business day, giving prosecutors a chance to review charges and make determinations. Anaya deprived them of that chance, the court opinion states.



According to online court records, Danielle Gallegos, 31, was arrested on suspicion of two counts of trafficking controlled substances, both first-time offenses on a second-degree felony; child abuse not resulting in death or great bodily harm, criminal sexual penetration and aggravated battery with a weapon, all third-degree felonies; conspiracy to commit aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a controlled substance, all fourth-degree felonies; and delivery or manufacture of drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor. The status of the case was unclear in court records.

The high court opinion states Anaya should have interrupted Fernando Gallegos during the first call to say the contact was improper and then told him to consult with a lawyer or have his daughter file a motion. It adds Anaya should have recognized Fernando Gallegos’ phone number when he called Saturday and not answered the phone — and once he did answer, he should have said he couldn’t speak about the case without the prosecutor present, then ended the call. Anaya should have notified the District Attorney’s Office about both calls, the opinion states.

Specifically, according to the court opinion, Anaya violated conduct code rules regarding compliance with the law, promoting confidence in the judiciary, avoiding external influences on judicial conduct, cooperation with others in administration of court business, ensuring the right to be heard and avoiding ex parte (one-side only) communications.

The censure amounts to a public condemnation of actions and “serves as an assurance to the public that improper judicial behavior will not be tolerated,” according to the court opinion.

Anaya, a Democrat, was elected to the court in 1986 and served two four-year terms, until he lost a 1994 primary election to Richard “Buzzy” Padilla. Anaya lost a second bid for the Division III seat in 1998 to Padilla, but he won a special election in 2000 for the Division II position over Republican appointee Dennis Miller.

(19) comments

Grace Trujillo

It's so frustrating that people are quick to judgement! He made a mistake. Let him move on.

Paula Frank

This is an interesting article about his background

http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/putting-character-at-forefront/article_8a0007b7-a00b-5fb4-b7e1-5a35aae2289b.html nd

Sabine Strohem

@PAULA thanks for that. Fascinating.

Khal Spencer

Excellent article, thanks. I read an article about judges without law degrees in New York State, and there too there were numerous errors and complaints.

Paula Frank

Thanks, my favorite part is where Judge Segura said “a good magistrate is someone dedicated to the community, with good intentions, a ‘significant background’ and a desire to learn the law”

Paul Branch

Judges have a higher standard to uphold. Former Rio Arriba Sheriff James Lujan just went to prison for illegally assisting a friend. A different situation but the politics are the same. Help before the arrest and get charged with a felony, or help as a judge afterwards and get a strongly worded letter.

Richard Reinders

[thumbup][thumbup] he should be held civilly responsible if anyone gets hurt or killed as a result of this release.

Khal Spencer

With such serious charges pending, what I would like to know is why Judge Anaya did what he did. Conflict of interest? Wow. Just. Wow.

If Hizzoner changes his mind and stands for a retention election or re-election, this story should be printed in huge font and put on billboards.

Lynn k Allen

Another election is coming and voters are facing difficulties.

Elect judges not knowing their history, background, judicial credentials or if they are releasing violent offenders.

This redistricting will leave most of us in the dark. Will there be any way to know history and background of any judges? Does any judicial organization recommend particular candidates?

Khal Spencer

There is this reference for those judges standing for retention elections in District or Appellate courts. Don't know if there is one for magistrate courts.

Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission.

https://nmjpec.org/en/

Mark Ortiz

" It is his first such violation, according to the high court’s opinion in the case." Okay, to the reporter who it seems is impossible to reach on the incorrect phone number on the SFNM web site. Do we know if he's been reported to the high court and ruled that he did not violate? If so, how many times? Who files reports to the high court to look into a judges actions?

I feel this is critical since from what we read about our area judges, and if you look at this comment section, their actions, judgements, sentences are inadequate and seem to be putting the public in danger.

Also, I just called the reporter's published phone number and apparently it's not him and the SFNM front desk says that number is no longer valid.

Bruno Sanchez

First violation or first time he got caught?

Sabine Strohem

Addendum: according to ballotpedia.com: New Mexico Magistrate Court

See also: New Mexico Magistrate Court

Judges of the New Mexico Magistrate Courts are elected to four-year terms. Vacancies are filled by gubernatorial appointment. A magistrate judge must be a resident and qualified elector of the magistrate district and have a high school diploma or its equivalent. In districts with a population over 200,000, magistrate judges must also be a member of the New Mexico Bar and licensed to practice law in New Mexico.[11]

MJ Hoffman

It seems to be the Democratic way to do things lately. In Denver 4,000 violent criminals were released on a PR bond or a $1 bond just to get out and murder the next day. I have voted for a lot for these government officials but I'm beginning to rethink my votes.

Sabine Strohem

I know Magistrate Judges are appointed positions, but what are Anaya's qualifications? What's his background other than this?

Chris Mechels

Qualifications, other that being a Democrat?? Surely you jest...

Nancy Murata

[scared][scared]

Stefanie Beninato

The story says he is not running for reelection.

Mark Specter

Time to send a message, Santa Fecinos! Vote this bum out the next chance we get!

Welcome to the discussion.

Thank you for joining the conversation on Santafenewmexican.com. Please familiarize yourself with the community guidelines. Avoid personal attacks: Lively, vigorous conversation is welcomed and encouraged, insults, name-calling and other personal attacks are not. No commercial peddling: Promotions of commercial goods and services are inappropriate to the purposes of this forum and can be removed. Respect copyrights: Post citations to sources appropriate to support your arguments, but refrain from posting entire copyrighted pieces. Be yourself: Accounts suspected of using fake identities can be removed from the forum.