On Monday, May 13, 2024, The New Mexico Supreme Court issued a public censure against Valencia County Magistrate Judge Deseri Sichler.

The case is entitled “In the Matter of Judge Deseri Sichler,” with case number 2022-111.

The censure stemmed from complaints made to the New Mexico Judicial Standards Commission regarding Judge Sichler’s conduct during her 2022 campaign for the Valencia County Magistrate Court position. According to the stipulation agreed upon by Judge Sichler and the Commission, Judge Sichler committed several violations of New Mexico’s election and campaign finance laws as well as the New Mexico Code of Judicial Conduct.

Specifically, Judge Sichler acted as the treasurer for her own campaign, which is prohibited under state law requiring the separation of a candidate from campaign finances. She also failed to remove a treasurer from her campaign paperwork after they withdrew consent to serve in that role, instead taking over treasurer duties herself illegally. Judge Sichler personally set up her campaign committee instead of delegating those responsibilities, listing herself as the sole contact with her personal information like home address and phone number.

As a result of these admitted actions, Judge Sichler stipulated that she violated rules regarding complying with the law, upholding public confidence in the judiciary’s integrity, following campaign finance regulations, and properly establishing a campaign committee. The Supreme Court’s per curiam opinion accepted this stipulation, finding Judge Sichler committed willful misconduct warranting discipline.

In their opinion, the justices explained that judges must avoid not just impropriety but the appearance thereof to ensure public trust. By illegally acting as her own campaign treasurer and manager, Judge Sichler gave the impression of attempting to obscure donations in a way that could undermine confidence in her impartiality. Her violations of electoral statutes in such a way also constituted a failure to adhere to the law as required of judges.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court agreed with the recommended censure to formally reprimand Judge Sichler and remind all judges that misconduct weakening the judicial branch’s independence and propriety cannot be tolerated. The public censure will now be formally published to further judicial transparency and accountability while reinforcing appropriate ethical standards for members of the New Mexico judiciary.

Judge Sichler is the magistrate for Division 3 in Los Lunas. She was elected to the bench in 2022, after serving as Valencia County treasurer for six years.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.