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Dear Editor,

There has been an important new development in the adjudication to quantify the Navajo Nation’s water rights in the San Juan Basin. Because of a major conflict of interest, Judge James Wechsler is being asked to disqualify himself from the case.

Judge Wechsler has been presiding over this case from the beginning and in 2011 an Expedited ‘inter se’ proceeding was begun, which today is in the New Mexico Court of Appeals.

It has recently been discovered that Judge Wechsler spent several years working for the Navajo Nation as a lawyer. While this is commendable, he never revealed that fact to the parties in this case as is required by Rule 21-211 of the Code of Judicial Conduct. This rule provides that “a judge shall disqualify himself or herself from any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned”.

Rule 16-109 in the Rules of Professional Conduct for Lawyers prohibits lawyers from using information against their former clients, so Judge Wechsler’s work for the Navajo Nation has created a huge conflict of interest. It is because of this conflict of interest that more than 20 acequias and community ditches have filed a motion asking the New Mexico Court of Appeals to disqualify Judge James Wechsler from adjudicating the water claims of the Navajo Nation.

Linda Corwin, Bloomfield


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