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.
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.
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).
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.
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.