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Cases in Context

A look at NM cases with information related to the case and what was happening at that time.

Cases in Context

Scales of justice over an open book.


Cases in Context is a project to explore New Mexico history and law through a selection of New Mexico Supreme Court cases. Each case will have a case summary, short biographies of some of the people and organizations involved, and a brief history of the location where events took place. Four cases each year will be based on a broad theme.

Legal Terms

Appellate Court: Appellate court is the higher court that hears and reviews the appeals from legal cases that have already been heard and ruled on in a lower court. Appellate courts are present at both the state and federal levels and feature only a committee of judges without a jury. On the federal level, there are 13 appeals courts, and each state has its own appeals court system, some of which include intermediate appellate courts.

Certiorari: Certiorari is a “writ” by which a higher court (such as an appellate court) reviews some lower court’s decision (such as a district court). 

District court:  A district court, in the United States federal judicial system, refers to one of the 94 trial courts throughout the nation that determine facts and apply legal principles to both civil and criminal cases. At least one district court sits in each state, including in the United States’ four territories. 

In New Mexico "The district court shall have original jurisdiction in all matters and causes not excepted in this constitution, and such jurisdiction of special cases and proceedings as provided by law, and appellate jurisdiction of cases originating in inferior courts and tribunals in their respective districts as provided by law, and supervisory control over the same. The district courts, or any judge thereof, shall have power to issue writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, injunction, quo warranto, certiorari, prohibition and all other writs, remedial or otherwise, in the exercise of their jurisdiction; provided that no such writs shall issue directed to judges or courts of equal or superior jurisdiction. The district courts shall also have the power of naturalization in accordance with the laws of the United States. Until otherwise provided by law, at least two terms of the district court shall be held annually in each county, at the county seat. (As amended November 6, 2018.)" N.M. Const., art. VI, § 13, retrieved on 05/30/2024.

Supreme Court:  The highest court in a jurisdiction

Writ: A writ is an order issued by a legal authority with administrative or judicial powers, typically a court.

Definitions from Cornell Law School, Legal Information Institute