On December 30, 2020, the San Juan Agricultural Water Users Association and community ditches filed a motion asking the New Mexico Supreme Court to vacate the Court of Appeals decision authored by retired Judge Bruce Black. The motion points out that Judge Black had no authority to act as a state court judge under the New Mexico Constitution.
The Constitution authorizes retired state judges to act temporarily as judges in the district courts, but not in the Court of Appeals. Judge Black retired as a state court judge in 1995, and then spent 22 years as a federal court judge. In 2018, acting under a temporary appointment, Judge Black wrote the opinion affirming the Navajo settlement. His opinion is currently under review by the New Mexico Supreme Court, so the December 30 motion adds more grounds for reversing it.
The San Juan acequias are not the only ones challenging Judge black’s opinion. The state engineer, the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, and the City of Gallup are also asking the Supreme Court to reverse the Court of Appeals decision. Judge Black’s opinion preempts New Mexico’s water law and regulation, effectively giving control of New Mexico’s river water to federal authorities.
A copy of the December 30 motion is posted here. 201230n Motion To Vacate Court of Appeals Decisions.
The Supreme Court has not yet set a date for oral argument in the Navajo case.