HOUSE DEMOCRATS NEWS
Santa Fe, N.M. – The historic New Mexico Civil Rights Act has now been signed into law by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, creating an avenue for justice for New Mexicans who’ve had their civil rights violated by government actors.
Sponsored by Representatives Georgene Louis (D-Albuquerque), Speaker of the House Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe), and Senator Joseph Cervantes (D-Las Cruces), House Bill 4 creates a legal avenue to protect New Mexicans’ civil rights as laid out in the state’s Bill of Rights that did not exist prior to today’s signing. Currently, those who have had their rights violated have no path to justice in state court. The New Mexico Civil Rights Act ensures New Mexicans’ right to life and liberty, safety and happiness, free elections, freedom of religion, speech and press, equal rights for men and women, and victims’ rights.
“All New Mexicans have a right to fair, just, and equal treatment under the law, regardless of their race or background. But up until now, our state laws have made pursuing justice for civil rights violations all but impossible,” said Rep. Louis. “I am so proud to see this critical legislation signed into law today, making enforceable the freedoms guaranteed to New Mexicans in the state’s Bill of Rights.”
“This is a historic moment for New Mexico, as we ensure that all public bodies in our state are held accountable for violations of civil rights,” said Speaker Egolf. “I am honored to have been part of this historic effort to bring justice to our system and thank Governor Lujan Grisham for recognizing this measure’s vital importance and signing it into law. Today, New Mexico makes history as a national leader in ensuring civil rights and guaranteeing that all victims of violence and discrimination in our state have a road to justice.”
“Right now, it’s nearly impossible to hold public agencies in New Mexico accountable when they violate someone’s civil rights,” said Senator Cervantes. “With the passage of the Civil Rights Act, we are ensuring that all government bodies are held responsible for their actions, building greater trust between our public bodies and our communities.”
After listening to the valid concerns of stakeholders, the final version of House Bill 4 clarifies that no individual teacher, law enforcement officer, or other public employee can be sued, holding government agencies solely accountable. The bill also places a $2 million cap including attorney’s fees on judgements under the Act, providing cities, counties, and other entities with financial predictability and allowing them to obtain insurance. Acequias, land grants, and other small units of government are removed from the definition of a public body in the bill.