By Zelie Pollon
Santa Fe, New Mexico (Reuters) - A state Supreme Court ruling against New Mexico's governor proves she is not above the law, a union leader said on Thursday.
The unanimous court decision on Wednesday requires Governor Susana Martinez to reinstate two members of the New Mexico Public Employee Labor Relations Board. She had fired all three members of the board in March.
The board members were in charge of enforcing collective bargaining laws, including cases against the governor.
"I think there was an outside expectation that despite the law, and by referring to cases that had nothing to do with the case at hand, that the judges would side with her just because she's governor," said New Mexico AFL-CIO President Christine Trujillo.
"The law was very clear on this," Trujillo said.
The governor says she acted within her authority.
"By its own admission, the Supreme Court carved out an exception to existing law," Martinez said in a statement.
"The Supreme Court's last decision regarding a governor's removal authority made clear that the Court would not limit a governor's removal power over appointees unless the Constitution or the Legislature expressly imposed such a limitation."
That was a reference to a case involving former governor Bill Richardson in which he had removed all six of his appointees to the Judicial Standards Commission. In that case, the Supreme Court said that it would be overstepping its bounds to impose a limit on the governor's removal authority, said Scott Darnell, a spokesman for Martinez.
However, Shane Youtz, an attorney representing the unions, said that the Judicial Standards board does not oversee cases regarding the governor. Of the 43 cases pending before the labor board when the firings occurred, 17 of them involved the governor, Youtz told the court.
And Trujillo said that the law requires that the labor board include one member nominated by labor unions representing state employees, one nominated by the governor and one member agreed upon by the other two parties.
It is the second Supreme Court ruling against Martinez since she took office this year. In January, the Supreme Court ruled the governor could not delay publishing greenhouse gas emissions rules that the state environmental board had approved.
(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Jerry Norton)