New Mexico Law Review Celebrates 40th Anniversary

December 17, 2010

Ten years after its humble beginnings as a section inside the Natural Resources Journal, in 1970 the New Mexico Law Review came into its own and began publishing as a stand-alone legal journal. With the recent release of its 40th volume, the journal celebrates not only 40 years of publication, but a well-earned reputation for its consistently reliable contribution to discourse on New Mexico legal issues.

The first volume was dedicated to outgoing Dean Thomas Christopher, and articles included, “Poverty Lawyers’ Independence: Battle Cry for Justice”, by John Robb; Indians – Civil Jurisdiction in New Mexico: State, Federal and Tribal Courts”, by Richard Ransom and William Gilstrap (`68) and “Tenants’ Rights Movement”, by Tova Indritz. Within a few years, more than 500 readers had subscribed and the journal had extended its focus beyond New Mexico in article content.

Vol. 40, Issue 2:
A Return of Familiar Authors

The second issue of the New Mexico Law Review's 40th anniversary volume will bring back five authors previously published among the journal's pages. Paul Biderman, director of the UNM School of Law's Institute of Public Law, will present an overview of 40 years at the institute. The other four will be revisiting the topic they addressed in their original law review article. They are: UNM emeriti professor of law Michael Browde and Ted Occhialino, Judge Linda Vanzi (`95) of the New Mexico Court of Appeals and Philip Higdon, a partner with Perkins Coie, an international law firm. Look for this issue in early 2011.

The third issue is scheduled for publication in spring 2011 and will feature a collection of student-penned case notes.

Tom Popejoy, Jr., (`71) had written an article about credit bureaus for the Natural Resources Journal when he was a 2L and was tapped to be the first editor of the law review. This would not be the end of his publishing career.

“I loved printing presses, the smell of ink,” he said. “I was very fortunate to get that job.” Although he went on to practice estate and trust litigation, for five years in the 1990s, he published The New Mexico Lawyer, a monthly newspaper.

Influential from the start
From the beginning, the law review’s editorial board has determined content, the format and generally been in charge of operations, turning to a faculty adviser for gentle guidance. Members of the UNM law faculty have been steady contributors, sharing their expertise with the broader legal community. Through the years, the state’s appellate courts have relied upon many of the law review’s ground-breaking articles in framing the direction of law in New Mexico.

As an example, members of the 2009 Legislature referred to an article in Vol. 38, No. 2 during debates before they voted to end the death penalty in New Mexico. The article was, “The Application of the Death Penalty in New Mexico, July 1979 through December 2007: An Empirical Analysis,” written by Marcia Wilson, a former staff attorney for the New Mexico Court of Appeals.

In addition to a broad sweep of articles on timely legal topics, the journal occasionally provides an in-depth discussion of one topic. For example, Vol. 33, No. 2 was devoted to scholarship presented at the Beyond Atkins Symposium at the UNM School of Law, following a U.S. Supreme Court decision that determined the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution forbids the execution of those individuals with mental retardation. UNM Law Professor Jim Ellis had successfully argued on behalf of petitioner Daryl Atkins in the landmark death penalty case.

NMLR Atkins
Panelists at a fall 2002 NMLR symposium that addressed the implications of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Atkins v. Virginia. From l-r: UNM law professors Jim Ellis and Elizabeth Rapaport and Michael Perlin.

Articles also have examined developments in legal education in New Mexico, such as skills training (Vol. 19, No. 1) and the teaching of Indian law (Vol. 26, No. 2).

Legal luminaries have been memorialized in the New Mexico Law Review, including Pamela Minzner (Vol. 39, No. 1) and Gene Franchini, for whom the current issue, Vol. 40, No. 1, was dedicated.

Challenging and Rewarding
The New Mexico Law Review is published three times a year and articles from the most recent issues can now be accessed online through the journal’s website. As part of the UNM School of Law’s commitment to open access, the article content of past issues also will eventually become available on the website.

Students compete for a place on the staff and editorial board of the New Mexico Law Review, and while the job is time-consuming and relentless, the rewards are matchless.

The editorial staff of 2009-2010, responsible for the 40th anniversary volume.

“The students’ reading, writing, analysis, proofing and editing skills are challenged to a degree that is incomparable with any other student experience,” said Erin McSherry (`10), who was editor-in-chief during her final year of law school.

Faculty who have offered their “gentle” guidance as advisers have been Al Utton, Robert Desiderio, Fred Hart, Chris Fritz, Ruth Kovnat, Maureen Sanders (`79) and Michael Browde, who has supported the students since 1989.

“It has been wonderful to work with the students in this important co-curricular activity of enormous educational value,” said Browde. “Through their hard work, the law review continues to fulfill its mission of providing scholarly discussion of legal issues unique to New Mexico.”