In the Matter of SalazarAnnotate this Case
The Judicial Standards Commission filed a petition for discipline against Espanola municipal court judge Respondent Stephen S. Salazar. David Vigil, the son of a member of Respondent’s church and an acquaintance, manufactured a custom chopper motorcycle which he allowed John Martinez to test ride. Vigil did not produce a title to the vehicle prior to allowing Martinez to test ride it. Ohkay Owingeh police towed the motorcycle during the course of a criminal case for domestic violence against Martinez. The seized motorcycle was towed by George and David Luna d/b/a Aces Towing and Recovery, LLC. Vigil phoned and later visited Respondent for help in recovering the motorcycle. Respondent directed Vigil to have his attorney draft an ex parte order regarding the motorcycle. Vigil delivered the order to Respondent in the lobby of the courthouse and Respondent signed it. In the order, Respondent directed George Luna and Aces Towing to return Vigil’s motorcycle. The order falsely stated that Respondent had held a hearing on the matter. Respondent did not give notice or an opportunity to be heard to the Lunas or their company. In addition, Respondent embossed the official seal of the Espanola Municipal Court upon the order even though there was no case pending or court file existing in that court for the matter. Respondent also failed to inquire if Vigil’s matter was pending in Rio Arriba County Magistrate Court or was part of any other action in any other court; Martinez’s case was, in fact, pending in Rio Arriba County Magistrate Court. When Respondent signed the order, he was on probation with the Commission following a trial before the Commission in November 2009. George Luna and Aces Towing filed a Petition for Writ of Prohibition and Superintending Control in the district court seeking to quash Respondent’s order. The First Judicial District Court granted the writ petition and quashed the order. The Supreme Court issued an order accepting the Commission’s recommendation for discipline suspending Respondent without pay for ninety days, placing Respondent on probation for the remainder of his current term of office, requiring Respondent to pay restitution to the injured parties, requiring Respondent to pay all costs associated with the disciplinary process and ordering a public censure of Respondent.