NM judge arrested for rape agrees to retire

AP News
Posted: Jul 26, 2011 6:04 PM
NM judge arrested for rape agrees to retire

An Albuquerque judge accused of raping a woman will retire Friday and has agreed never to seek a judicial office in New Mexico under a disciplinary order issued Tuesday by the state Supreme Court.

District Judge Pat Murdoch was arrested last week on charges of rape and intimidation of a witness while serving as chief criminal judge in the 2nd Judicial District, which covers the Albuquerque area and is New Mexico's biggest district court system.

The agreement to retire was reached between Murdoch and the state Judicial Standards Commission, which had started a disciplinary investigation of Murdoch.

Murdoch's decision to retire ends further disciplinary proceedings by the commission and the Supreme Court, which makes the final decision on whether to reprimand, suspend or remove judges from the bench for misconduct.

Murdoch has yet to enter a plea to the criminal charges but his lawyers say he is a victim in the case. The woman who has accused Murdoch of rape is an admitted prostitute and has said she met with him about eight times.

Murdoch's lawyers are seeking dismissal of the criminal complaint and have said police are investigating whether the woman may have tried to extort the judge with a video of a sexual encounter.

Murdoch agreed Monday to a suspension from his post while his criminal case was pending. The Supreme Court was to consider Wednesday whether the suspension would be without pay but that hearing was canceled after the court accepted the plan for his retirement.

Murdoch served on the court for 26 years. He received a law degree from the University of New Mexico in 1978, and worked as a public defender before his appointment to the district court.

New Mexico's judiciary has come under increased public scrutiny in recent years because of a series of cases of alleged misconduct, including the indictment in May of a state district judge in Las Cruces on bribery charges.

District Judge Michael Murphy pleaded not guilty to felony bribery charges in an investigation into an alleged pay-to-play scheme for judicial appointments during former Gov. Bill Richardson's administration. Richardson has denied that campaign contributions influenced his judicial appointments, saying the allegations are "outrageous and defamatory."

In 2004, the chief judge in the 2nd Judicial District, John Brennan, resigned after his arrest on drug possession charges. Brennan later pleaded guilty to aggravated drunken driving and cocaine possession.

Earlier this year, state Appeals Court Judge Richard Robles resigned after pleading guilty to drunken driving.