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.
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
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
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
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