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Final Score: Rule of Law-1; Onuska-0

The voters did what the N.M. Supreme Court and the Judicial Standards Commission failed to do: on Nov. 5 they ended the career of Paul Onuska, the worst district judge in the state.

Carroll and Bonnie Crawford

According to the Secretary of State's unofficial election returns as of Nov. 15, Onuska got 56 percent yes votes. He needed 57 percent to hold on to his office. When compared to the other three judges up for retention in the 11th Judicial District, it is apparent that by the standards of retention elections, he lost by a landslide. His fellow judges were retained with a high approval rating of 77 percent (Grant Foutz) to a low of 75 percent (William Birdsall).

Onuska's defeat was accomplished by a grassroots campaign with a shoestring budget. The greatest credit for defeating Onuska must go to Carroll and Bonnie Crawford, who spent their own money, and invested a ton of hours educating the public about Onuska. This committee did its bit as well, and hopefully this website has provide the thinking public with the information they needed to make an intelligent decision on Onuska.

The Supreme Court's Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission (JPEC) evaluated about 80 judges state-wide. Its members were unpaid volunteers, and the state owes them a great debt of gratitude for the work they did. Their recommendation of "do not retain," Onuska must have been persuasive to many people.

Carroll and Bonnie Crawford give a big thumbs up after defeating District Judge Paul Onuska. There were many people who worked to defeat Onuska, but the lion's share of the credit must go to this couple, who sunk their own money and a lot of time into the campaign. They put up about 200 anti-Onuska signs around the county, only to have about 80 destroyed by thuggish supporters of Judge Onuska. Other campaigns did not experience nearly this heavy a loss of campaign signs.

KENN radio, 1390 am, did the voting public a great service in running the JPEC's public service announcements so often in the days leading up to the election. Their work was especially important since The Daily Times was not just Missing In Action, it had actually gone over the hill and joined up with the Onuska forces. The D-T pulled out all the stops, and in the process, sold its journalistic soul, in a vain effort to get Onuska retained. Not only did they endorse the retention of Onuska (even while admitting that he is unfair), but they kept a steady drumbeat of pro-Onuska letters to the editor coming, while suppressing anti-Onuska letters. For example, on their on-line edition of the paper, between Nov. 1 and March 27, the paper ran 35 pro-Onuska letters while running only 4 anti-Onuska letters. Indeed, when one of the pro-Onuska letter writers attacked this committee with some misinformation, the D-T refused to print our response. Similarly, the paper has refused so far to run our letter thanking all who supported our cause after the election.

Their news columns were equally biased. The JPEC called a news conference on Sept. 13th to announce their recommendations. This was big news in Albuquerque and elsewhere, but The Daily Times suppressed the story for six days before grudgingly running a story on Sept. 19.

Despite the fact that Onuska was the only judge up for retention in the state to attract an organized opposition, the D-T's news pages never mentioned any opposition to Onuska, other than the JPEC recommendation, until after the election, when they finally got around to quoting Carroll Crawford.

To this day, the paper has not mentioned this committee. When the paper did a "news"story about Onuska, they asked a few questions about the JPEC recommendation, but completely ignored the questions this website put to him on Sept. 5, which he has never answered (see Questions for Onuska.). A real newspaper would have put those same questions to him, since they go to the very heart of his competence to hold his seat, but The Daily Times was interested only in doing puff pieces on Onuska.

The paper is not the only loser. The state Supreme Court was indirectly exposed by the JPEC, and this committee's website, as failing its constitutional duty to superintend the lower courts. Onuska has been on the bench for 17 years, during which time he was notorious as a judge who would shaft those he took a dislike to, as well as being infamous for his surly, nasty manner to courtroom

Terry Breen

Judge Onuska was declared the winner in the Nov. 6 edition of The Daily Times. The next day they had to correct their story and admit that their man has lost his retention election. The Daily Times mounted a full-court press to get Onuska retained. The paper also refused to print or mention anything about the Committee for Judicial Integrity during the campaign. Here Committee chairman Terry Breen poses ala Harry Truman 1948, with a faux copy of The Daily Times, and a big grin.

participants. During the last 17 years the Supreme Court has caused the resignation or removal of a number of judges, but they were indifferent to the gross abuse of power Onuska exercised from his bench. If the Supreme Court members don't start taking their responsibility to superintend the lower courts seriously, the voters should kick them out of office at their next retention election.

Yet another loser: the state's Judicial Standards Commission, which is charged with investigating and prosecuting before the Supreme Court, allegations of judicial abuse. What is the point of having an agency like the Judicial Standards Commission if it does nothing to root out a judge as obviously unsuitable as Onuska? Probably the best thing the legislature could do with that agency is to abolish it and spend the money elsewhere.

Another loser: the membership of the New Mexico Bar. A handful of attorneys made contributions towards Onuska's defeat, but the great majority sat on the side-lines and let others do the work. When this committee contacted San Juan County attorneys, most responded with: "We sure hope you succeed, but we're too afraid of what he'd do if he gets retained to give you any money." Prominent attorneys from outside San Juan County had an "I'm alright, Jack" attitude, usually saying, "I don't practice in front of him, so it doesn't matter to me." So much for all the claptrap one finds in bar journals about how fearlessly attorneys stand up for the rule of law.

But the winners are the voters who bothered to educate themselves on Onuska, and voted No. They really did stand up for the rule of law, and they have made San Juan County, and New Mexico, a better place.