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New Mexico’s high court GOP justice reschedules retirement

September 18, 2020 GMT
FILE - In this Nov. 27, 2018, file photo, New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice Judith Nakamura helps to certify election results and order recounts in a handful of state House races in Santa Fe, N.M. New Mexico's Supreme Court is considering competing proposals to increase reliance on absentee balloting by mail in efforts to safeguarding public health and voting rights in the state's June 2 primary. Oral arguments and a possible ruling were scheduled Tuesday, April 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 27, 2018, file photo, New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice Judith Nakamura helps to certify election results and order recounts in a handful of state House races in Santa Fe, N.M. New Mexico's Supreme Court is considering competing proposals to increase reliance on absentee balloting by mail in efforts to safeguarding public health and voting rights in the state's June 2 primary. Oral arguments and a possible ruling were scheduled Tuesday, April 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee, File)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The lone Republican justice on the state Supreme Court is retiring on Dec. 1, triggering the nomination process for one of five seats on the high court.

The University of New Mexico School of Law, which oversees judicial vacancies, made the announcement Thursday about the retirement of Justice Judith Nakamura, who initially planned to retire Aug. 1 but postponed.

Nakamura was appointed by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez in November 2015 and won election to an eight-year term in 2016 by defeating Democrat Michael Vigil. Vigil now sits as chief justice after ousting a Republican appointee at the polls in 2018.

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The court has taken a prominent role in leading the state through the COVID-19 pandemic by freezing evictions while moderating conflicts over mail-in voting procedures and the governor’s authority to limit business operations.

A bipartisan Supreme Court nominating commission is taking applications for through mid-October on candidates it can recommend to Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Two justices previously appointed by the governor are up for election to eight year terms in the Nov. 3 general election.

Incumbent Justice Shannon Bacon, a former state district judge from Albuquerque, is running against Republican challenger Ned Fuller, a Farmington-based county prosecutor and former Cabinet-level state official.

Justice David Thomson is running against Republican attorney Kerry Morris of Albuquerque, a former Bernalillo County prosecutor.