Matthew Garcia – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico

The vacancy on the New Mexico District Court vacated by Judge Judith Herrera in 2019 is one of the longest pending judicial vacancies in the country. With the nomination of Matthew Garcia, the New Mexico district court is the closest it’s been in years to being fully staffed.

Background

Garcia received his B.A. from the University of New Mexico in 1999, a M.P.P. from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in 2003, and a J.D. from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 2005. Garcia spent a year as a Fulbright scholar in Finland before joining Freedman Boyd Daniels Hollander Goldberg in Albuquerque as an associate.

In 2009, Garcia became a Partner with Bach & Garcia. In 2012, he shifted to become a Partner with Garcia Ives Nowara. In 2018, he became general counsel for incoming Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham in New Mexico. In 2020, he came Lujan Grisham’s chief of staff.

History of the Seat

Garcia has been nominated to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico vacated on July 1, 2019 by Judge Judith Herrera’s move to senior status. In May 2020, President Trump nominated Brenda Saiz to fill the vacancy. However, New Mexico’s Senators refused to return blue slips on Saiz due to the Trump Administration’s decision to push through a nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg upon her death. The Biden Administration then nominated Garcia.

Legal Career

Garcia started his legal career at the firm of Freedman Boyd Daniels Hollander Goldberg in Albuquerque. While at the firm, Garcia represented Auditor candidate Hector Balderas (currently New Mexico Attorney General) in a suit by the Republican Party by New Mexico blocking Balderas from replacing the previous Democratic party candidate on the ballot. See Johnson v. Vigil-Giron, 140 N.M. 667 (2006). Garcia also represented a water utility in a suit against the Dona Ana Mutual Domestic Water Consumers Association, which was dismissed based on municipal immunity. See Moongate Water Co. v. Dona Ana Mut. Consumers Ass’n, 145 N.M. 140 (2008).

In 2009, Garcia shifted to Bach & Garcia, where he worked on insurance litigation. See, e.g., Jordan v. Allstate Ins. Co., 149 N.M. 162 (2010).

In 2012, Garcia became a Partner at Garcia Ives Nowara. While at the firm, he represented the ACLU of New Mexico as amicus curiae in a suit against the New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department. See Ramirez v. State ex rel. Children, Youth & Families Dep’t, 326 P.3d 474 (N.M. App. 2014). Garcia also argued before the New Mexico Supreme Court in seeking to maintain a Whistleblower Protection Act claim against Secretary of State Mary Herrera. See Flores v. Herrera, 384 P.3d 1070 (N.M. 2016).

After the election of New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, Garcia joined her staff. In that role, he represented the Governor in inter-governmental litigation. See, e.g., State ex rel. Egolf v. N.M. Pub. Regulation Comm’n, 476 P.3d 896 (N.M. 2020). He also represented the Governor in successfully defending public health regulations governing the management of the Covid-19 pandemic. See Grisham v. Reeb, 480 P.3d 852 (N.M. 2020); see also Grisham v. Romero, 483 P.3d 545 (N.M. 2021).

Political Activity

Garcia has an extensive political history outside of his work for Lujan-Grisham. This includes multiple donations to President Barack Obama, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, and State Senator Eric Griego, all Democrats.

Overall Assessment

The 48-year-old Garcia brings both political connections and legal experience to the federal bench. While Garcia is likely to attract strong opposition due to his Democratic bona fides, it should nonetheless permit him to get confirmed by the end of the Congress.

51 Comments

  1. The New Mexico senators have been above average with their three Biden nominees. That’s thanks in large part to them holding two seats open during the Trump administration including this seat in which Trump nominated Brenda Saiz.

    Garcia is another outstanding New Mexico nominee. It would be great to see their circuit court seat become vacant during the Biden Administration to see what phenomenal nominee we would get.

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      • I replied last night. It’s the last post on the thread. But here is a copy/paste from it…

        @ Ethan

        Sandhya Iyer seems like a good choice, but this is actually the seat I don’t have a grasp on who might be the eventual nominee. The sexual misconduct at Dartmouth would depend on when it occurred. Iyer started in July 2017 & the misconduct was reported in November 2018. I would assume most of the misconduct occurred before she joined so it probably wouldn’t affect her if she was being considered.

        @Rick

        I actually answered that question a few weeks back on another post on this site. I listed a vacancy on each of the circuit courts except the Federal Cricut & the nominee I would want if Democrats had 60 seats. But I’ll name a few down here…

        Andrew Manuel Crespo – DC or 1st (MA)
        Deepak Gupta – DC
        Melissa Murray – 2nd (NY)
        Justin Driver – 2nd (CT)
        Joshua Perry – 2nd (CT)
        Jasmine Harris – 3rd (Pennsylvania)
        Ajmel Quereshi – 4th (MD)
        Rochelle Garza – 5th (TX)
        Amparo Monique Guerra – 5th (TX)

        Nico Martinez – 7th (IL) ***John Rappaport deserves to be first, however with Biden’s lack of Hispanic circuit court nominees, if a vacancy became available tomorrow, I would nominate Martinez first. ***

        John Rappaport – 7th (IL)
        Jessica Eaglin – 7th (IN)
        Monica Ramirez-Almadani – 9th (CA)
        Lauren Bonds – 10th (KS)
        Fred Smith – 11th (GA)

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  2. A poll that came out today suggested that Evan McMullen is in a dead heat with Mike Lee in Utah. I don’t generally believe polls, but I’ve always thought this would be a close race.
    McMullen is sufficiently conservative (e.g. he’s anti-choice but also opposed a full reversal of Roe) to win over anti-Trump Utah conservatives. Romney is neutral in this race, which is a signal that it is ok to vote for McMullen.
    I would expect McMullen to caucus with the GOP, but be to the left of Romney, and he would probably support many of Biden’s judges, and probably nearly as often as Murkowski. More importantly, it would rid the Senate of one of the worst obstructionist piece of shit in Mike Lee. After Cruz and Hawley, Lee is the next worst.

    Liked by 1 person

      • McMullin is one more vote to reject any attempts to overturn a future election.

        So I remember reading about McMullin talking about SCOTUS judges. He said that he would have voted for Gorsuch and KBJ, but not Kavanaugh whom he considered a partisan hack. He also said that he may have voted for Barrett under normal circumstances, but certainly not as a last minute nomination just before the election. This is basically equivalent to Murkowski record.

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  3. Mathis confirmed 48-47…..Manchin cast the final aye vote…..I’m at work so I had it up, not watching but listening……I heard Sullivan of Alaska vote No, and I was like wait a minute, he wasn’t in all week, but came in to vote no for a nominee, so glad Andre was able to finally be confirmed despite Democratic senators missing.

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  4. Jennifer Rearden confirmed by voice vote as Schumer adjourns for the week.

    Mendoza confirmation and Freeman cloture both scheduled for Monday night. Good to see two votes on a Monday. Makes three circuit confirmations very doable next week.

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    • 3 circuit court judges a week is very doable even with the 3 day work week as long as they aren’t going anywhere near the 30 hours. Good to see a voice vote despite what I think of Jennifer H. Rearden being a nominee in a blue state. Hopefully we can get a few more voice votes before the midterms to save the 2 hours.

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      • I would rather leave the seat open than fill it with Jennifer Rearden. Period. She is the second worst nominee from Biden.
        I cannot think of any nominees that was not a GOP selection as part of a deal from Obama as bad as Childs, Rearden, or O’Hearn. These are such horrible stab in the back judges.

        2 hours is not a big deal. Quick nominating absolute garbage like this.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hmmm… I’ll have to go back & look at if I agree Obama didn’t nominate anybody as bad as Childs or Rearden that wasn’t from a purple or red state. You may be right but I’ll have to look to see. But I completely agree with the last sentence about quit nominating garbage. Unfortunately in the case of New York, Schumer has a 3 to 1 deal so this was Gillibrand’s 1. Her being a senator in the first place makes me more mad then Rearden but that’s a conversation for another day… Lol

        I would love to sit down in private one day with former governor Patterson & ask him why did he appoint Gillibrand to Clinton’s seat. At the time she was considered left of center. I never understood why her other then maybe wanting an upstate Democrat.

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  5. While Rearden wouldn’t have been my first, second, third, or fourth choice, had she been as bad as say the proposed Kentucky District Court nominee Biden almost nominated as a favor to McConnell, she would have been met with fierce Democratic senator opposition..

    As long as she doesn’t have some horrible ruling on voting rights, 1st amendment, or criminal law (see Trump judge who allowed special master as example) I can live w/her nomination

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    • This is why I am a big believer that judges should be confirmed in order of their age, from oldest to youngest. Tana Lin should have been confirmed first so she would become chief judge now. You maximize how many Democrat appointees can become chief in the future when you confirm them by age. It won’t matter in this case since every judge on this court will be a Biden appointee, but in general that should be how it’s done. Plus in this specific case, Lin is much more liberal then Estudillo.

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    • Another horrible selection by Biden. The Washington state senators had a progressive judicial commission and mostly selected high quality largely progressive nominees. How the hell a center-right GOP judge from Eastern Washington got recommended from this commission, I have no idea. Especially over former Obama nominee J. Michael Diaz, who only improved his resume by serving as a state judge for 4 years.

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      • This is one I agree with @Shawn on completely. How the Hell was Estudillo picked by such a progressive committee, let alone picked in the first batch over some of the phenomenal candidates picked after. Even if you were looking for a Latino, as Shawn mentioned J. Michael Diaz would have probably been the second best Biden nominee that was previously nominated by Trump after Stephanie Davis.

        They are around the same age so that couldn’t have been an issue. Plus he was already vetted once so shouldn’t have taken too much more time. Had he or virtually any other Latino we have mentioned on this site been picked instead of Estudillo, I would argue Washington state would have the highest average of any state when it comes to Biden judges to date. This one pick really brings down the average set so high by the other nominees from the district court.

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    • Absolutely Rick.

      I actually wrote how man of Obama’s circuit court judges are either no longer on the bench or have announced they are taking senior status on another post on this site. It’s one of the main reason’s why I stress youth so much, unless the nominee is jus that phenomenal where I would excuse the age like Beth Robinson or Nina Morrison for example.

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  6. So looking back at Trump, he had 29 circuit court judges confirmed before the midterms in 2018. Biden is at 20 right now.

    There are 6 pending on the floor, 2 needing discharge & 4 more that have already had a hearing for a total of 32. Schumer can still surpass Trump even not including any nominees that have not had a hearing as of yet.

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  7. I think if Dems lose the senate then there’s a good chance that at least all 37 circuit court nominees that have been announced today will get confirmed.

    If Dems hold/increase the majority they probably take their foot off the gas a little bit but I think 30 or so is still likely

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  8. I updated some notable cases on P. Casey Pitts’s Wikipedia page. He is really a stellar nominee. I hope Durbin holds a SJC hearing with all of the California nominees in one hearing & get this man confirmed before the end of het year.

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      • I probably would have went with Linda Lye if you wanted a AAPI judge. She’s a few years younger and has larger variety of experiences (labor lawyer, ACLU, state court judge, environmental protection general counsel). Also a Ginsburg clerk (Wang was a SCOTUS clerk too).

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      • @Mitch

        We don’t know why she left the bench. It could be as you say, she wants to be an advocate rather than a judge. It could be because she found being a trial judge mundane and would prefer to do appellate work. It could be because she thought she could have more impact as the Cal EPA general counsel. So it is certainly possible that she could still have been interested in say an appointment to the 9th Circuit.

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      • As I’ve said before I have never stepped foot inside of a law school but I imagine fi I had persuaded that field, it would be incredibly hard to turn down a circuit court judgeship offered by the president of the United States. That’s an awesome amount of power to turn down. I could see saying no to a state court judgeship, particularly since states differ on everything from running for the seat & going through re-election. But for a lifetime appointment to a seat where only the US SCOTUS can over turn you would likely be a bit too much for most lawyers to turn down. There are very few Greg Costa’s I would bet.

        Now of course as good as both Wang & Lye are, I would have liked Biden to make a push at Goodwin Lui again. I’m sure he probably thought he had a shot at the California SCOTUS chief justice, but now that governor Newsome messed that pick up, I wonder could he be talked into it now. The California SCOTUS is one of the few in the country that is just as prestigious as a circuit court. But at the end of the day they still have to be re-elected I believe every 10 years so he possibly could be persuaded now, especially if Democrats gain a seat or two in the midterms. But we definitely don’t need any more moderates like Lucy Koh from California while in the majority.

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      • Yeah I was sure of this after seeing Kennedy’s comments Mathis’ hearing. I thought at the time that Kennedy could vote for Mathis and wasn’t really surprised when he did.
        The GOP complaints about ignoring blue slips brought out some really raw feelings from Kennedy, and he was pretty blunt about it and stated that it would be unfair to expect Democrats to go back to blue slips. His questioning of Mathis were mostly softballs.

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      • While I disagree with senator Kennedy on a lot, I will say he is pretty consistent when it comes to confirming judges regardless of who the president is. When I hear some of the Democrats on the SJC complaining about some Republican questioning I mostly agree with them when it comes to Cruz, Hawley & to a lesser degree Mike Lee. Kennedy is tough but he was also tough on Trump nominees so I give him deference.

        Kennedy tanked some Trump nominees & even voted against Gregory Katsas for the DC circuit. Like Shawn, I too wasn’t surprised when he voted for Mathis as he voted for him in the SJC & his comments seemed to push back Republican attempts to change the rules back after 4 years of Trump. His assent may not be authentic but his consistency on judges sure are… Lol

        Liked by 1 person

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