Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Las Cruces City Council picks new Municipal Court judge

LAS CRUCES – The City of Las Cruces Council appointed a new judge to the municipal court after a previous appointee was ruled invalid.

On Monday, the council appointed Jessica Streeter, a district court judge, to replace Kieran Ryan. Streeter was appointed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to the 3rd Judicial District Court in 2021 to fill a vacancy. Her term in district court ends this year after Streeter lost a primary election last June.

Streeter’s appointment to the municipal court bench comes after months of dispute, ultimately leading to a showdown in court last October. At the time, a judge ruled Ryan’s appointment invalid.

The judge said state statute directed the city to follow an ordinance requiring municipal judges to be in good standing with the New Mexico State Bar Association.

Ryan, a former municipal court judge, allowed his status to become inactive. Still, the council appointed Ryan to take the lesser bench in the two-bench court. The municipal court handles violations of the city’s municipal code, including petty misdemeanors and traffic citations. Two judges, one with authority over the other, oversee those cases.

Mayor Ken Miyagishima said Ryan’s appointment was meant to handle an increased caseload for the court.

But the court’s presiding judge, Joy Goldbaum, said Miyagishima had ulterior motives for the appointment. A Sun-News investigation found Mayor Ken Miyagishima had asked about the presiding judge’s authority to hold nonviolent offenders in jail in certain circumstances.

During his short stint on the bench, Ryan signed at least one warrant with a high bond in a nonviolent offense case.

Miyagishima stands with several other city officials in opposing bail reform, a constitutional amendment approved by New Mexico voters in 2016 that allows most people charged but not convicted of a crime to remain out of jail until they are convicted. Most criminal cases go through other court systems, however.

Still, Goldbaum accused Miyagishima of appointing Ryan to circumnavigate bail reform. Goldbaum then stopped assigning cases to Ryan after revealing Ryan was not an active member of the New Mexico State Bar Association.

Joy Goldbaum addresses the Las Cruces City Council on Nov. 21, 2022.

The feud then went to the district court after the city filed a writ of mandamus, which attempted to compel Goldbaum to assign cases to Ryan. However, a district judge found that city had no standing because of Ryan’s status with the state bar association.

Much of that discord was absent from Monday’s vote. Instead, the council voted without fuss to appoint Streeter.

Streeter holds experience in criminal law, children’s law, abuse and neglect, estate planning, probate, divorce, custody and child support. Streeter attended New Mexico State University and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy. After graduating from the University of New Mexico School of Law, Streeter practiced law in Albuquerque and Roswell before returning to Las Cruces to open a law firm. Her term begins on Jan 1.

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Justin Garcia is a public safety reporter for the Las Cruces Sun-News. He can be reached at JE [email protected]

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