Judge James Blackmer campaigns for himself at a 2002 AIDS run at the UNM School of Law.
James Blackmer, who built a reputation as a conscientious, hard-working judge in Bernalillo County’s Second Judicial District, died Feb. 29, 2012 in Sedona, Ariz., after complications from cancer surgery in his ear. He was in his late 60s.
Blackmer grew up on a ranch near Embudo and earned a math degree from Colorado College. He went on to serve as a paratroop officer in the U.S. Army and received the Army Commendation Award. In 1973, he earned a J.D. from the University of New Mexico School of Law.
He worked as a prosecutor, in both the First and Second Judicial districts. In Santa Fe, he was the senior trial lawyer and in Albuquerque he headed up the office’s narcotics and property crimes division. He went on to positions in the Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Blackmer was first appointed to the bench in the First Judicial District by then-Gov Garrey Carruthers in the late 1980s, becoming the first Republican in the seat for 30 years. He often commuted the 32 miles from Eldorado to Santa Fe by bicycle. In the ensuing election, he lost to former district attorney Joe Castellano.
Nearly two years later, Carruthers gave him another chance and appointed him to the Second Judicial District bench, where he remained until retiring in 2006. He served seven years as a family law judge and 10 years in the criminal division. In 1997, Blackmer received the Outstanding Judicial Service Award from the State Bar of New Mexico.
He was praised for his hard work, management of cases and fairness to the parties. Blackmer also was known for his attention to detail and generous thoughtfulness. For example, he married people for free, nearly every day, it seemed. He volunteered to sign warrants on weekends or in the middle of the night.
When he retired on April 30, 2006, Blackmer petitioned the New Mexico Supreme Court to allow him to continue working without pay until July 4, which he viewed as his own Independence Day. He said he owed the extra time to defendants waiting in jail and the public, which has a right to prompt trials.
“He wasn’t phony or pretentious,” said former Diane Dal Santo, a colleague in the Second Judicial District. “He was just larger than whatever space he was in, but virtue of being so distinct.”
March 7, 2012