Civil Affairs

The New Mexico Department of Justice has broad statutory authority over civil legal matters and proceedings involving the state. The NMDOJ is responsible for:

  • defending and prosecuting civil actions and proceedings in court when the state is a party or interested, or when the NMDOJ believes the interest of the state requires it;
  • defending state officers and employees who are named as parties in civil actions arising from the performance of their official duties;
  • providing legal representation and advice to state agencies, boards and commissions; and
  • providing written opinions on legal questions submitted by legislators, state officials and district attorneys.

The New Mexico Department of Justice is also charged with administering and enforcing a wide variety of laws that benefit New Mexico residents. These include laws that protect consumers’ rights, such as the Unfair Practices Act, and laws intended to make state government more transparent and accountable, such as the Open Meetings Act and the Inspection of Public Records Act.

These broad responsibilities are addressed by the three divisions within Civil Affairs: Government Counsel & Accountability, Government Litigation, and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo division.

Government Counsel & Accountability

Government Litigation

The Government Litigation Division is responsible for representing state agencies in lawsuits, representing state court judges in writ petition matters, and administratively prosecuting individuals licensed/certified by state boards and commissions who have violated regulatory standards. The Division also takes on the defense of state agencies in important lawsuits that affect important state interests.

The Civil Litigation sub-division litigates civil matters on behalf of the State and the public interest, and defends state entities in civil matters in both state and federal courts. This representation includes defending challenges to state statutes and regulations, as well as representation of judges and state officers when they are sued in their official capacities in non tort-related claims or when the authority of the courts is challenged.

The Administrative Prosecution sub-division serves as administrative prosecutor to approximately 30 state boards and commissions which regulate licensed professions. A comprehensive list of these boards and commissions can be found on the Regulation and Licensing Department website. The majority of these prosecutions are for violations of the Uniform Licensing Act or related laws. Sanctions range from fines to revocation of state-issued licenses. The Division also seeks injunctions in state court against individuals or organizations that refuse to become licensed by the appropriate state agencies.

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo Division

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo Division, created in 2003, was established to review, oversee and address concerns relating to the provisions of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that have not been implemented or observed in the spirit of Article 2, Section 5 of the Constitution of New Mexico.

The Division provides legal representation to the New Mexico Land Grant Council and the New Mexico Acequia Commission. The Division’s vision is to take a proactive approach to finding solutions and responding to the evolving needs of the Land Grant and Acequia Communities by providing legal support, policy development and outreach. 

Land grant issues remain vexing in New Mexico and claims of new or continued ownership of ancestral lands are a top priority. The Treaty Division continues to pursue resolutions to the encroachment of historical common lands while seeking to protect, perpetuate and celebrate New Mexico’s history and culture of land grants and acequias. The Division also works with the land grant council to identify legal assistance for land grants that are political subdivisions of the State under §49 NMSA 1978 and reviews and responds to election contests filed with the treaty division in accordance with §49-1-7 NMSA 1978. Additionally, a top priority of the Treaty Division is to continue the development and building of the digital repository describing New Mexico’s Land Grant-Merced history and current status.