AP NEWS

New Mexico judge who ruled on major cases dies at 70

July 6, 2019
This Aug. 11, 2017 photo shows District Judge Sarah Singleton smiling after a ruling in Santa Fe, N.M. Singleton, a retired district court judge who presided over multiple landmark cases in New Mexico, has died at 70, officials said Friday, July 5, 2019. (Eddie Moore/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Sarah Singleton, a retired district court judge who presided over multiple landmark cases in New Mexico, has died at 70, officials said Friday.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Singleton’s death in an email, saying she was “incredibly saddened.” A spokesman for the courts said Singleton died on Thursday. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported she died of metastatic endometrial cancer.

“Judge Singleton was a dedicated jurist and highly respected member of the community,” Lujan Grisham said.

She was remembered by the governor as being the first New Mexico judge to rule in favor of gay marriage. In 2013, Singleton had sided with Alexander Hanna and Yon Hudson in deciding that a Santa Fe County clerk must grant the two men a marriage license or appear in court to explain why she should not.

In 2017, Singleton invalidated 10 of Gov. Susana Martinez’s vetoes because the former Republican governor had missed deadlines or failed to explain her reasons. That decision allowed piecemeal legislation on economic development, high school curricula and hemp production to take effect.

Attorney General Hector Balderas praised Singleton. “I’m saddened to hear of the passing of Judge Sarah Singleton. Not only was she a well respected attorney and jurist, she was a true advocate for access to justice and the representation of New Mexico’s most vulnerable,” Balderas said in a statement.

Singleton had been a judge in New Mexico’s First Judicial District. The northern New Mexico court handles cases from the counties of Rio Arriba, Los Alamos and Santa Fe, which includes the state’s capital.

Singleton had served on the district from Jan. 2, 2010, through Sept. 1, 2017, said Barry Massey, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of the Courts.

She continued to preside over select cases into her retirement.

One of those cases included a dispute over education funding in the state, where advocacy groups and school districts argued in a 2014 lawsuit that the state failed to meet constitutional obligations to provide a sufficient education for all students.

Singleton ruled last year that New Mexico must provide funding to public schools to ensure at-risk students receive a sufficient education.

The case highlighted the plight of English-language learners, Native American youth and students from low-income families.

Singleton earned a bachelor’s degree from Sarah Lawrence College in New York and a law degree from Indiana University, according to the website of the university’s Maurer School of Law.

After 30 years in private practice, she was appointed to the bench by Gov. Bill Richardson in 2009.

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