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Former state District Judge Murdoch dies

April 19, 2019 GMT

Albert S. “Pat” Murdoch, served on the 2nd Judicial District Court bench from 1985 to 2011. Murdoch died on Monday.

Former 2nd Judicial District Judge Albert S. “Pat” Murdoch, who served on the bench from 1985 until he retired after a scandal in 2011, has died.

Details of 67-year-old Murdoch’s death on Monday were not immediately available.

“Judge Murdoch leaves a legacy of fairness and compassionate insight for litigants, and we are grateful to Judge Murdoch for his service on the bench,” Chief Judge Stan Whitaker said in a statement released Tuesday. “His strength throughout his life is equally admirable and remarkable. The Court extends its deepest sympathy and condolences to Judge Murdoch’s family.”

Described as fearless and fair, Murdoch enjoyed a lengthy career as a respected public defender, a judge and presiding judge of the court’s Criminal Division, where he carried one of the busiest dockets.

Murdoch’s career came to an abrupt end in 2011 when he was arrested at his Northeast Heights home and charged with forcing a prostitute ? whom he had allegedly paid on other occasions ? to have sex, and with intimidating a witness.

Albuquerque police said at the time that they suspected the 23-year-old self-admitted prostitute was trying to extort Murdoch after surreptitiously videotaping the encounter.

The case was subsequently moved to the District Attorney’s Office in Santa Fe, where in March 2014 then-DA Angela “Spence” Pacheco declined to pursue it after reviewing the factual allegations. Murdoch continued to maintain his innocence throughout.

Murdoch, a native of Springer, received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of New Mexico in 1975 and later attended the UNM School of Law, graduating in 1978.

He immediately began working for the Public Defender’s Office as a felony lawyer and then as a deputy district defender, supervising the Felony Division’s 13 attorneys. He became head of the public defender’s office in 1983, overseeing 40 attorneys and support staff.

In 1985, at the age of 33, he became the youngest person appointed to the District Court bench. That appointment was made by former Gov. Toney Anaya to fill new judgeships that the Legislature had created the previous year.

Murdoch, who had polio as a child, was a founding member of the Zia Wheelchair Basketball team, which in 1983 won the Rocky Mountain Conference championship of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association.

In addition, Murdoch supported and coached a wheelchair basketball team for youths. His efforts received national accolades in the 2003 documentary “Kiss My Wheels.”

While in law school, Murdoch helped organize a branch of Big Brothers of America that matched adults with disabilities to kids with disabilities, and he served as its director for a year. He was named Big Brother of the Year in 1981.

Murdoch also served on the Criminal Justice Planning Committee under former Mayor Harry Kinney.

Judge Murdoch’s demeanor, both in chambers and on the bench, was calm, encouraging and fair, said presiding Criminal Court Judge Charles Brown. “He addressed all who appeared before him with patience and equanimity,” Brown said. “He was courageous in his legal rulings. His passing is a tremendous loss.”

Ted Baca, former chief judge of the 2nd Judicial District Court, recalled that Murdoch was “dedicated, intelligent and very brave.”

“He made his decisions based on the law, and without regard to outside pressure or influence. He was extremely well-versed in criminal law and had an acutely accurate moral compass. He was fair and compassionate but strict when he had to be,” he said.

Because of that reputation, Murdoch “enjoyed the respect of most of the attorneys who appeared before him during all those years on the bench, and he was there a long time.”

Baca said the resignation of his friend and fellow jurist “was very difficult” and became even more so “when it turned out that nothing came of it.”

“It’s pretty unfortunate that he didn’t get a chance to give his side of the story about the circumstances, because his side of the story was honest,” Baca said.

No information about survivors or funeral arrangements was available Tuesday.

Former District Judge Pat Murdoch, who had polio as a child, played on and coached wheelchair basketball teams. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)