On Friday, May 10, 2024, KDAT reported that New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez will be filing a complaint against Dona Ana County Judge Douglas Driggers to the state Supreme Court. The complaint alleges that Judge Driggers violated state law and the New Mexico constitution when he terminated the probation of former teacher Patrick Howard two years early.

Howard had pleaded guilty in 2021 to fondling 15-year-old students during field trips. He admitted to inappropriately touching several students. In a related civil case, a federal jury awarded one of Howard’s victims $44 million in damages. Despite this, Judge Driggers held a hearing on May 9th, 2024 to consider ending Howard’s probation early at the request of Howard’s attorney.

However, the Attorney General claims the hearing was improperly handled and violated the rights of the victims. The Victims’ Rights Act mandates that victims be notified of any hearings regarding their cases. However, no victims were informed about the May 9th hearing on Howard’s probation status. DA Gerald Byers also noted the hearing was scheduled just two days after the motion was filed when by law victims should have received at least seven working days’ notice.

Furthermore, Attorney General Torrez stated it did not appear the district court followed proper constitutional procedures to protect victims’ rights. Audio from the hearing also showed none of the parties pointed out the lack of victim notification. DA Byers, who was not present at the hearing, later filed a motion on May 10th to reinstate Howard’s probation.

The Attorney General’s complaint calls for the state Supreme Court to review the allegations against Judge Driggers and determine if a new hearing is warranted. It could also impose sanctions on the judge if he is found to have violated state law or the constitution. Victim attorney Shannon Kennedy praised the actions, saying it granted the victims another chance to continue fighting for justice in the case.

 

 

Source: KDAT