The Santa Fe Reporter from Santa Fe, New Mexico on October 19, 1989 · Page 11
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The Santa Fe Reporter from Santa Fe, New Mexico · Page 11

Santa Fe, New Mexico
Issue Date:
Thursday, October 19, 1989
Page 11
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Spotlight The Judge Eveiyone likes Santiago Campos — except civil rights lawyers By Michael Haederle Steven Farber is still incensed about what happened in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Santiago E. Campos last July.. Farber, a Santa Fe lawyer specializing in civil rights cases, sued on behalf of a Las Vegas woman named Jayme Kay, who claimed she had been raped by her boss, Art Bustos, the former San Miguel County District Attorney. After five weeks of trial, a jury decided July 21 that Kay had not proven that Bustos raped her. The following Monday, Bustos dropped a counterclaim against Kay in return for a promise that Farber would not appeal the jury verdict. Now Farber is taking the unheard-of step of publicly criticizing the judge's handling of the case. Specifically, he charges that Campos prevented him from introducing key testimony that would have backed up his client's accusations. "I'm sure people think it was sour grapes," Farber acknowledges. "I just think it was an abuse of judicial power, what he did to that girl." Farber maintains that Campos, now the chief federal judge in New Mexico, has consistently ruled against civil rights plaintiffs throughout his 11-year tenure. "He's a terrible judge for civil rights cases," Farber said. "He dislikes them. He dislikes lawyers who do them." Farber's view is not shared unanimously in New Mexico's legal community, where many count Campos as one of the best judges around. In fact, Campos generally is held in high regard for both his experience and his fairness. But when it comes to civil rights cases—allegations of police misconduct, wrongful discharge, employment discrimination and the like—many prominent trial lawyers say privately that they agree with Farber. They cite a series of courtroom rulings and written opinions, which, they argue, prove Campos goes out of his way to rule against civil rights plaintiffs. This attitude has made the filing of civil rights cases in New Mexico something of a lottery. The other three district judges in the state who handle such cases do not have the same reputation as Campos. When such cases, which are randomly assigned, go to Campos, many lawyers decide they have little chance of winning for their clients. They go through all sorts of contortions to avoid going to trial-either by seeking an out-of-court settlement, or by moving to the state court system, where there is often less protection for civil rights. Most lawyers are unwilling to be quoted on the record, because they fear it may hurt their clients. In federal court, where judges sit for life, lawyers have no right to disqualify a judge from hearing a case unless an ethical conflict arises. Many lawyers say they will do whatever is necessary to get Campos off a case. As a last resort, this may even mean deliberately associating with a lawyer who has a personal relationship with the judge, thereby forcing him to relinquish the case. One Albuquerque lawyer calls it the "ABC Theory of Federal Civil Rights Practice in New Mexico: Anybody But Campos." A few lawyers are willing to venture public comments about Campos's civil rights record, however. Santa Fe attorney Morton Simon, who has clashed with Campos over the issue of attorney fees in one such lawsuit, said: "I believe him to be an anti-plaintiff's judge in civil rights cases." Phil Davis, an Albuquerque lawyer who often represents the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, adds: "Quite frankly, if I have a civil rights case that's assigned to Judge Campos and I can settle it, I will." At the same time, Davis, like many of the lawyers interviewed, gives Campos high marks for his judicial temperament and knowledge of the law. "He is a very good trial judge," Davis said. "He knows his rules of evidence and he makes a good record in terms of explaining his rulings." Campos declined to be interviewed for this story. Federal judges generally shun publicity and usually decline to comment on the cases they handle. Agreeing to pose for photographs, he proudly showed a photographer STEVE NORTHUP one of two horned owls that live in the trees outside the courthouse. He said court employees had named them Oliver and Santiago—and he was clearly very proud of Santiago. A Friendly Person Santiago Campos, 62, is a slight man with a swept-back mane of silver hair, routinely described by friend and foe alike as "charming" and "gracious." In the counroom, he is said to be a patient listener who gives lawyers for each side a chance to make their case. Many of the judge's critics praise his fairness in criminal cases, especially during sentencing, something several lawyers attributed to his stint as a state district judge in Santa Fe in the 1970s. Campos likewise is praised for his handling of other cases. "I think that he is one of the best judges in the state." William Riordan said. Riordan is a formei New Mexico Supreme Court justice who now provides legal counsel to the state's Risk Management Division. "Of all the federal judges, he is one that I know both sides get a chance to fully argue and state their positions." Riordan helped arrange Risk Management's representation ol Bustos in the Jayme Kay case. He says Campos has ruled both foi and against the plaintiffs in receni civil rights cases. "I know that Farber was unhappy with some of the evidentiary rulings," he continued. "That's part of the job of being a lawyer." The Bustos Case According to Steven Farber. Campos abandoned all pretense oi fairness in the Jayme Kay-Art Bustos case. "During the course oi the trial, it seems to me, he took over the role of an advocate, making certain rulings that hadn't even been requested by the defense." Farber said. Farber maintains that Campos allowed witnesses for Bustos to testify about Jayme Kay's previous relationships, focusing on her friendship with Billy Noble, a State Penitentiary inmate. According to Bustos, Kay and Noble concocted the rape charge in order to blackmail him into dropping charges against Noble. At the same time, Campos excluded as prejudicial testimony from several young women who had previously worked for Bustos. Farber said, and who had theii own problems with him. Campos likewise restricted the testimony of Susan Cave, a Santa Fe psychologist who treated Kay on 41 occasions after the alleged rape, Farber said. Campos ruled Cave could tell jurors what she had observed, but could offer no expert opinions about Kay's condition. "It's the wierdest testimony I've ever given," Cave said. "This is the first time I've ever testified in front of Campos, and I hope it's the last." Campos also made some unusual statements about the case while it was underway. According to u July 19 Associated Press report, he told Farber in open court, "We have a very delicate balance ot credibility here. Either your client or Mr. Bustos is lying ... I'm trying to keep a level playing field on credibility." In the end, according to Farber, Campos "restricted her testimony in such a light as to make it gibberish — unintelligible." Farber said he agreed to drop the case because Kay's psychologists told him "it was not in her best interest to continue." Judith Herrera, the Santa Fe lawyer hired by Risk Management to represent Bustos, declined to t'tl I'll /'(/i,'i 12 I- 19-25, IVS9 SANTA l : li Klil'OKTKK il

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