January 8—Today, the New Mexico Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding the lawsuit filed by the Republican Party of New Mexico (RPNM) in conjunction with every GOP member of the state House and Senate, the National Rifle Association (NRA), former law enforcement and private citizens against Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and NM Secretary of the Department of Health Patrick M. Allen for their usage of public health orders to remove New Mexicans’ Second Amendment rights.
Jessica Hernandez, legal counsel for RPNM and all plaintiffs, argued that the governor’s emergency order exceeded the emergency statutes and are an invalid use of emergency power.
Hernandez contended that it is entirely contrary to our system of government for one person void of the legislature to have the power to determine that an “emergency” has escalated to subjective and unspecified extents and to then impose substantive public policy and public funding decisions through declaring an emergency order.
Moreover, she explained that the public health order issued by the NM Health Secretary fails to meet the criteria of being an imminent threat and that utilizing data covering a period of over a decade cannot justify a circumstance being an emergency but rather a chronic issue.
During the hearing, Justice Briana H. Zamora asked Holly Agajanian, the governor’s chief general counsel, where the line should be drawn in response to the governor’s ability to declare public health emergencies. In response, Agajanian answered, “I don’t know,” validating the concern that the governor’s use of public health emergencies could set a dangerous precedent for future rights violations.
Chief Justice C. Shannon Bacon acknowledged RPNM’s perspective, saying to Agajanian, “I can conceive of almost anything being a public health emergency if I adopt your client’s perspective.”
The Justices also presented several hypothetical questions, including whether the governor could suspend New Mexicans’ ability to drive their cars by declaring an emergency for DUIs, comparing the similarity to the governor’s initial emergency order suspending the open and concealed carry of firearms. Agajanian deflected the comparison by asserting the amended public health order no longer bans concealed and open carry of firearms in public.
The amended public health order, which is currently being enforced, bans all firearms from parks and playgrounds.
Justice Michael E. Vigil stated that there is no statistical information within the emergency declarations showing there is a gun violence problem at parks and playgrounds in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County.
Justice Zamora asserted that most of the additional programs within the public health order could have been accomplished without the emergency declaration but that the emergency allowed for them to receive funding.
Justice Zamora warned of potential overreach through the use of emergency orders to attain unilateral capability over the allocation of funds saying, “If we allow this, what are we not allowing?” In response, Holly Agajanian again stated that she does not know where the line is.
RPNM Chairman and former Representative of New Mexico’s Second Congressional District, Steve Pearce, issued the following statement:
“We express our gratitude to the New Mexico Supreme Court for attentively listening to our case today. Our legal counsel presented the Justices with persuasive and compelling arguments, highlighting the momentous importance of holding the Governor and Secretary of Health accountable to the rule of law and ending their abuse of emergency power. RPNM is proud to take on this crucial case as we aim to safeguard the Constitutional rights of New Mexicans from current and future infringement.”
The Republican Party of New Mexico (RPNM) advances the ideals of individual liberties for the advancement of its citizens and the greater prosperity of our communities throughout New Mexico. Led by an Executive Board and its Chairman, former NM Congressman Steve Pearce, RPNM serves all New Mexicans via its headquarters in Albuquerque and can be contacted at (505) 298-3662.