Historic Civil Rights Bill Signed Into New Mexico Law

ACLU of New Mexico commends lawmakers and Governor Lujan Grisham for paving a path for justice in New Mexico

Affiliate: ACLU of New Mexico
April 7, 2021 5:45 pm

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SANTA FE, N.M. - Today, Governor Lujan Grisham signed The New Mexico Civil Rights Act, a historic bill backed by the ACLU of New Mexico and a broad range of community and national allies that paves a path for justice in New Mexico. The bill, known as HB 4, allows New Mexicans to bring claims for damages in state court against police officers and other public officials who violate the rights guaranteed to them under the New Mexico Constitution. Prior to the passage of HB 4, New Mexicans had to sue for violations of most of their rights in federal court.

“Before today, New Mexicans had no means of accessing the lofty freedoms contained in our state Bill of Rights,” said ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson. “Put simply, our rights were guarantees on paper, but not in fact. The passage of HB 4 ends that sad irony, literally breathing life into our cherished liberties. It’s a truly monumental victory for fairness, justice, and equality.”

HB 4 , sponsored by Speaker Brian Egolf, Representative Georgene Louis, Senator Joseph Cervantes, and Representative Patricia Roybal Caballero, also explicitly bars the defense of qualified immunity, a federal judicial doctrine that makes it nearly impossible for individuals to sue public officials by requiring proof that they violated “clearly established law.”

“Qualified immunity has given police officers and other public officials what amounts to a ‘get out of court free card,’” said ACLU of New Mexico Senior Policy Strategist Barron Jones. “This judicial doctrine has been an enormous obstacle to meaningful accountability for public officials who abuse their power. The passage of HB 4 is an incredible triumph for the people of New Mexico, especially Black, Brown, Indigenous, and other marginalized people who are disproportionately harmed by police and other government actors, and who now have a fair chance at achieving justice.”

This victory comes nearly a year after protests swept the country in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade and at a time when people are demanding an end to racialized violence in policing and accountability for those officers who abuse their power to harm people in their communities.

The ACLU of New Mexico commends Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham for signing the New Mexico Civil Rights Act into law, as well as legislators who sponsored the bill and those who voted to pass the bill. The ACLU also thanks allies who helped ensure the bill’s passage, including The Innocence Project, Planned Parenthood New Mexico, Americans for Prosperity New Mexico, the National Police Accountability Project, and the many impacted people who testified in committee hearings.

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