New Mexico

Quick Guide

  • Cost Per Capita: $20.81
  • State Funding Level: 100% State Funding
  • State Independence: Independent Commission
  • Primary Delivery Model: Staffed Public Defender

New Mexico has a statewide, state-funded indigent defense system that provides services through a combination of staffed public defender offices and contract attorneys.  Due to a recent amendment to the New Mexico constitution — supported by over 60% of voters — New Mexico now has an independent statewide commission in place.  Previously, the administration of the state’s Public Defender Department was the chief public defender, who was a direct appointee of the governor of New Mexico. The governor also appointed the heads of the Department’s branch trial and appellate offices.

The central office and administration is located in Santa Fe The Public Defender Department maintains trial staff offices in 11 of the state’s 13 judicial districts, located in Aztec, Taos, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Clovis, Hobbs, Carlsbad, Roswell, Alamogordo and Las Cruces. Each office is managed by a district public defender. In the remaining two judicial districts, where there is no branch public defender office, trial-level services are provided by private attorneys under contract with the Public Defender Department’s Contract Counsel Legal Services division. New Mexico counties served entirely by contract counsel include San Miguel, Mora, Guadalupe, Grant, Hidalgo, Luna, Socorro, Catron, Sierra, Torrance, Quay, Harding, De Baca, McKinley, Valencia, Sandoval and Cibola.

The Appellate Division, located in Santa Fe and managed by the appellate defender, provides post-trial representation in New Mexico’s Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, and occasionally federal courts, for public defender clients across the state.  In addition to providing representation in areas where there is no district defender office, the Contract Counsel Legal Services division also contracts with private counsel to provide representation in cases of conflict. Conflict cases include misdemeanor, juvenile and felony trial cases, direct appeal and post-conviction proceedings, and occur in all jurisdictions across the state.