Just months into her stint as New Mexico secretary of state, Dianna Duran made Fox News, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times after announcing her office had discovered more than three dozen foreign nationals had fraudulently voted in New Mexico elections. “This culture of corruption that has given all New Mexicans a black eye is unacceptable,” Duran was quoted as saying in a March 2011 press release. But a protracted public records lawsuit filed by the ACLU of New Mexico revealed no voter fraud lists existed, although other records were produced. And now taxpayers may be on the hook for more than $90,000 in attorney fees and costs awarded to ACLU lawyers who won the case.
Duran resigned last October after pleading guilty to felony charges related to her embezzlement of campaign contributions to fuel a gambling habit. She is serving five years of probation after spending 30 days in jail.
The public records case was settled, but an appeal by the Secretary of State’s Office over how much ACLU attorneys should be paid for pursuing the lawsuit lives on.
Last week, an attorney for the Secretary of State’s Office urged a panel of the New Mexico Court of Appeals to undo a ruling by an Albuquerque district judge, who in 2014 found that nearly all the legal fees and costs sought by the ACLU were reasonable and “necessary to (the) successful prosecution of this IPRA (Inspection of Public Records Act) lawsuit.”