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Since 1996, the Public Law Section has presented the annual Public Lawyer of the Year Award to lawyers who have had distinguished careers in public service and who are not likely to be recognized for their contributions. Each year, a selection committee solicits and reviews nominations for the Award. The committee accepts nominations from the public and may also consider nominees from previous years.
Steve Michel has practiced law in New Mexico for 40 years. He was born in Chicago and graduated with a B.A. in History and Economics from Northwestern University. From 1978 to 1982, he attended law and business school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, where he received J.D. and M.B.A. degrees.
After law school, Steve moved to Roswell, New Mexico, and was an associate attorney with the Hinkle law firm. His goal was to live in the West, near the mountains, and practice public utility law, which he had been exposed to in law school.
From 1989 through 2006, Steve was in private practice, mostly representing a group of large New Mexico businesses that intervened as energy consumers in utility cases. Members of that group included large oil & gas firms, potash mines, technology companies and manufacturing firms. During this time, he also pro bono represented public interest groups and tribes in various matters, the most significant of which was contesting a large transmission line proposed to be located in sacred and beautiful landscapes in the Jemez Mountains near the Valles Caldera. His clients were NGO’s, tribes and pueblos. That pro bono effort, which lasted 5 years with 4 months of hearings, succeeded in halting the transmission line. The area he helped protect is now the Valle Caldera National Preserve within the National Park Service. In 1995, largely because of his work to protect that area, Steve received New Mexico State Bar’s Robert H. LaFollette Pro Bono Award.
In 2007, deeply concerned with climate change, Steve joined an environmental organization called Western Resource Advocates, where he worked until earlier this year. His work for that organization was mostly legal, though he also supervised clean energy advocacy in Utah and Arizona. During his time with WRA, Steve helped write important environmental
legislation including New Mexico’s Renewable Energy Act and Energy Transition Act. He also developed climate rules for New Mexico which were adopted by the Richardson administration but repealed under Governor Martinez. In 2016, Steve sued the U.S. Senate to compel it to consider the Merrick Garland nomination. The suit eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court, but was ultimately unsuccessful, being dismissed for lack of standing. Steve’s argument that the Senate had a Constitutional duty to consider, and not ignore, a President’s Supreme Court nominee has never been decided on the merits.
Steve and his wife Sandra have travelled extensively, visiting all seven continents. His favorite place in the world is Nepal. He is also an avid backpacker and has hiked the 485-mile Colorado Trail and over 1000 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Closer to home, Steve finds solace in our Pecos Wilderness. Steve is a (slow) runner, an animal lover and vegan.
Thank you to all who attended and celebrated!
From left to right: Nathan Eckberg, 2022 Public Law Section Chair. Britanny Dutton-Leyda, 2022 Craig Othmer Scholarship Winner. Carolyn Wolf, 2022 State Bar President. Justice David K. Thomson. Steven S. Michele. Sandra Michele.
2018 - Anthony C. Porter is a Special Assistant Attorney General for the Human Services Department's Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED) in Las Cruces where he has practiced for the past 20 years. His years of dedication have helped stabilize the lives of thousands of children. He has spent countless hours of his own time to fill the void in the division while also training and mentoring new attorneys. Mr. Porter is widely known by his colleagues and the judiciary for his knowledge and consistent dedication to his work and for his integrity, professionalism, and preparedness while managing an extreme caseload - having appeared in over 10,000 child support hearings in his 20 years with HSD.
2017 - Carolyn A. Wolf was selected based on her long distinguished legal career in both the public sector and in private practice, her volunteer work following retirement, and her encyclopedic knowledge of both New Mexico state statutes and case law. She serves as a valuable resource to fellow attorneys and has taught a number of continuing legal education programs.
2016 - Elizabeth "Betsy" A. Glenn's distinguished career has included roles at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the New Mexico Taxation & Revenue Department, where she served as both a staff attorney and Chief Legal Counsel. The majority of Betsy’s exemplary career was dedicated to the work of the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office, where she played key roles and advised numerous Attorneys General in decision-making and authored numerous Attorney General’s Opinions, for which she is well known.
2015 - Joey D. Moya is the Chief Counsel and Chief Clerk of the Court for the New Mexico Supreme Court. Moya has made significant contributions to the judiciary, reflecting his dedication and commitment to public service and his desire to truly make a difference in the lives of the people that the judiciary serves.
2014 - Albert J. Lama has spent most of his 25-year career in the New Mexico Attorney General's Office in senior positions, including Director of the Civil Division and his current position of Chief Deputy Attorney General.
2013 - Clifford Rees has dedicated his career to legal services and state government, especially in advancing the state’s public health and procurement law. Since retirement, Rees has continued his involvement in public health, emergency preparedness, and production of ground-breaking laws.
2012 - Pamelya Herndon is the executive director of the Southwest Women's Law Center, and was recognized for her long career in public service and her dedication to public law and the people of New Mexico.
2011 - Tracy Hughes was honored in recognition of her long and dedicated service to the State of New Mexico, particularly at the New Mexico Environment Department; her reputation for excellence; her professionalism; and her mentorship of new attorneys.
2010 - Paula Tackett was honored for her long career in public service that began in 1982 when she joined the Legislative Council Service. She has come to be known as the institutional memory of the legislature and has spent countless hours mentoring attorneys as well as educating law students and the public to enhance open access and knowledge of the legislative process.
2009 - Gerald McBride was honored for his many years of dedicated service to the state’s most vulnerable adults through his work at the Adult Protective Services Division of the New Mexico Aging and Long-Term Services and its predecessors. McBride protected and improved countless lives and inspired those who worked alongside him.
2008 - Clark de Schweinitz was recognized for his long and dedicated service to low-income residents of northern New Mexico as an attorney with the Santa Fe office of New Mexico Legal Aid. He was also recognized for his leadership role in the community, and his years of public service working to improve the lives of New Mexico residents.
2007 - Stuart M. Bluestone
Chief Deputy Attorney General Stuart M. Bluestone was recognized for a career dedicated to public service. He served in four attorney general's administrations and was the top deputy in the AG's office for the vast majority of that time. In that capacity, he was critically involved in numerous legal and administrative decisions affecting the state. Additionally, he assisted in training several attorneys, many of whom subsequently served in important public service positions. Aside from his work at the AG’s office, Bluestone worked for several years as an attorney with the legislative council service, ultimately as deputy director. He also served as chair of the board of directors of New Mexico Legal Aid.
2006 - Frank D. Weissbarth
Frank Weissbarth was recognized for his dedicated service as an Assistant Attorney General specializing in the areas of consumer protection and subdivision law.
2005 - Paul L. Biderman
Paul Biderman was recognized for his dedication to public service and public interest law through his service as legal services attorney, as a government lawyer, as a consumer advocate, as cabinet secretary and finally as a leader at the UNM School of Law Institute of Public Law.
2004 - Robert M. White
Bob White was recognized for his leadership and expertise in the areas of local government law and land use law. White has served as the long-time Albuquerque City Attorney, as an Albuquerque City Councilor and as a leader of state and national municipal attorney organizations.
2003 - Peter T. White
Peter White was recognized for his years of dedicated service as General Counsel for the State Engineer along with his service to community groups concerning water rights after his retirement.
2002 - Jerry Richardson
Jerry Richardson was recognized for his service as chief hearing officer for the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department. In addition to deciding administrative protests in tax matters, Richardson was responsible for oversight of license revocation hearings under the New Mexico Implied Consent Act. In addition to his long career as a public lawyer, Richardson played an active role in the community. He was a founding member of the Friends of the Palace, a support group for the Palace of the Governors Museum. Richardson was a member of the Board of Trustees for the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, serving as chair from 1994-1996. He also spent 10 years on the Public Employees Retirement Board and was chair of the board from 1992-1995.
2001 - Mary McInerny
Mary McInerny was recognized for her distinguished career in the public sector including service at the New Mexico Attorney General's Office, as the Financial Institutions Division Director, as a member of the Public Utility Commission and as County Attorney and County Administrator for Los Alamos County.
2000 - Nick Estes
Nick Estes was recognized for his dedicated and distinguished service as an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, the Albuquerque City Attorney's Office and as University Counsel for the University of New Mexico.
1999 - Marty Daly
Marty Daly was recognized for her distinguished career as a public lawyer, serving as an Assistant District Attorney, the Appellate Public Defender and as an Assistant Attorney General.
1998 - Douglas Meiklejohn
Doug Meiklejohn was recognized both as the pioneering founder of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center and for his dedicated service at the New Mexico Attorney General's Office.
1997 - Frank Katz
Frank Katz was recognized for his leadership as the long-serving General Counsel at the New Mexico Taxation & Revenue Department. Katz also served as a Deputy Attorney General.
1996 - Florenceruth Brown
Florenceruth Brown was recognized for her leadership and service as General Counsel for the New Mexico Health and Environment Department, and for her pioneering role as a female attorney in northern New Mexico.