Legislature: Historic NM Civil Rights Act Clears Final House Committee


Guarantees New Mexicans fair, just, and equal treatment under the law, regardless of race or background 

The historic New Mexico Civil Rights Act passed its final committee Monday in the House of Representatives and will head next to the House floor for a full vote.  

Sponsored by Speaker of the House Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe) and Rep. Georgene Louis (D-Albuquerque), House Bill 4 was developed based on recommendations from the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission and feedback from communities following tragedies across our nation and state resulting from civil rights violations.  

HB 4 creates a legal pathway for New Mexicans to bring claims in state court against public officials who violate their civil rights. The bill also removes “qualified immunity,” a federal legal doctrine that makes it nearly impossible to successfully pursue legal action against government bad actors.  

House Bill 4 passed the House Judiciary Committee with an 8-4 party-line vote. 

“All New Mexicans have a constitutional right to fair, just, and equal treatment under the law,” said Speaker of the House Brian Egolf. “By holding public officials accountable and creating an avenue of justice for New Mexicans, we can build greater trust between law enforcement and our communities.”  

“Every New Mexican, regardless of their race or background, deserves their day in court if their civil rights have been violated,” said Rep. Georgene Louis. “However, right now, if a New Mexican has had their rights violated by a government actor, they cannot get that day in state court. House Bill 4 would right this egregious wrong for all New Mexicans.” 

“This is a bill for every New Mexican – beyond party affiliation, who you are, or where you live,” said Peter Simonson, Executive Director for ACLU New Mexico. “The New Mexico Civil Rights Act makes sure you can get justice if the government violates your constitutional rights.” 

“When someone acting in an official government capacity violates a citizen’s constitutional rights, certain laws and immunities protect them from liability, regardless of the damage they’ve caused to regular New Mexicans,” said Brenda Boatman, Community Engagement Director for Americans for Prosperity New Mexico. “This undermines individual rights, allows wrongdoers to escape accountability, and leaves victims with no way to address the injustice in court.” 

“I know of no other system with such obstacles to justice. It not only protects state actors, it protects the guilty,” said former New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Richard Bosson. “I encourage the legislature to embrace this opportunity for justice, and not let it slip by.” 

“Two days after Christmas, my nephew lost his life. The abuse was so bad, he bled internally and lay lifeless on his bed while his parents waited hours to call 911,” said Sylvia Marquez, a New Mexican whose 9-year-old nephew Omaree was killed at the hands of his parents in 2014, despite multiple reports to police and other state agencies of ongoing abuse. “The system failed this child. They protected those who did not do their job; they protected the case workers involved. These agencies and these people need to be held accountable, because these children don’t have a voice.” 

 “More important than any dollar amount, I wanted everyone to know that I was innocent and that the state did this to me. I wanted accountability. I still do, 45 years later,” said Ron Keine, who was falsely convicted of murder and sentenced to death in New Mexico. Nine days before his scheduled execution, the truth came out, but government actors who knowingly framed him were never brought to justice. 

Members of the public can track legislation on the New Mexico Legislature website, access committee meetings and House floor sessions via the Webcasts tab, or participate by Zoom to provide public comment on committee hearings. During the 2021 Legislative Session, the House of Representatives is focused on passing critical legislation while protecting the health and safety of the public, the staff, and the legislators.