September/October 2023

2023 Distinguished Achievement Awards Dinner

The UNM School of Law Alumni/ae Association and the UNM School of Law hosted the 2023 Distinguished Achievement Awards Dinner on October 20, 2023. The Alumni Association and the school would like to express heartfelt congratulations to all honorees and thank event sponsors and guests for helping honor them at such a beautiful event.

Nominations are open now for 2024. Closing date is February 15, 2024.

All event photos can be accessed here.

The Justice Pamela B. Minzner Award & The Salazar Prize

The Justice Pamela B. Minzner Award in Professionalism and Legal Ethics and the Salazar Prize for Outstanding Academic Achievement were awarded to two outstanding UNM School of Law students. Congratulations to Xaveria Mayerhofer, Class of 2024, who received the Justice Pamela B. Minzner Award, and Jackie Munro-Vahey, Class of 2024, who received the Salazar Prize. The UNM School of Law would like to recognize the hard work, dedication, and professionalism of these individuals.

UNM Law Clinic Van

The UNM School of Law recently gained a new addition to the Clinical Program this semester: a passenger van that can seat up to 15 people. Every student at the law school is required to participate in Clinic for one semester, either in the fall, spring, or summer, where they will get hands-on experience working with clients. The new clinic van will transport students around the state to conduct outreach and meet with clients.

We are very proud of our new van. Thank you to Former Representative Daymon Ely, who provided junior bill funds to purchase the van.

New Members of the State Bar

The newest members of the New Mexico State Bar were sworn in on October 12, 2023 at the UNM School of Law. Congratulations to all.

New Mexico Civil Rights Act Symposium

The New Mexico Law Review held its symposium: New Mexico Civil Rights Act (NMCRA): Its Meaning and Application” on October 28, 2023 at the UNM School of Law.

A big thank you to all of the speakers and the keynote speakers for opening the first scholarly discussion of the NMCRA to aid in the understanding of civil rights claims.

Keynote speakers were Julie Murray, Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU; Joanna Schwartz, Professor of Law at UCLA; and Matthew Segal, Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU. Thank you to our local speakers Judge Linda Vanzi, of Counsel at Rodey, Dickason, Sloan, Akin, & Robb, P.A.; Maureen Sanders, Attorney with Sanders & Westbrook, P.C.; Mark Baker, Shareholder with Peifer, Hanson, Mullins & Baker, P.A.; Kristin Greer Love, Attorney with the NM ACLU; Hon. Judge Mark Standridge of the Third Judicial District of New Mexico; Luis Robles, Partner at Robles, Rael and Anaya, P.C.; Brian Egolf, Partner Attorney at Egolf, Ferlic, Martinez, and Harwood Attorneys at Law; Alfred Park, Partner at Park & Associates, LLC; Hon. Reena Szczepanski, New Mexico State Representative; Michelle Garcia, Attorney and Manager with New Mexico Legal Aid and Manager of LGBTQ+ Legal Access Program; Alexandra Freedman Smith, Partner at the Law Office of Alexandra Freedman Smith; Cody Rogers, Attorney with Serpe Andrews PLLC; and William Slease, Adjunct Professor of Law at UNM.

The School of Law would also like to thank the planning committee, Shannel Daniels, Symposium Editor; Aaron Sharratt, EIC; Sophia Bunch, Managing Editor; Professor Carol Suzuki, Faculty Advisor; Judge Linda Vanzi; Maureen Sanders; Maria Sanchez, NM ACLU; Mark Baker; and Carson Thornton Gonzalez.

Preliminary Judicial Clerkship Numbers

The preliminary judicial clerkship numbers for the class of 2023 were recently released. Twenty percent of the 2023 class holds a Judicial Law Clerk position and 7% holds a Federal Judicial Law Clerk position. The UNM School of Law is proud to announce that these clerkship numbers are the highest rate we have seen within the past 10 years.

Federal Judicial Law Clerk spotlights:

Alma Buena: Clerk for U.S. District Judge David Urias

Molly Samsell: Clerk for U.S. District Judge Margaret Strickland

Nat Saing: Clerk for U.S. District Judge Matt Garcia

Border Justice Initiative Informational Session

The Border Justice Initiative (BJI) held an informational session to share information about externships, fellowships, and mentorships. During this session, law students Alondra Granados-Diaz (3L) and Stephanie Flores (2L) talked about the immigrant families with whom they have worked with at the border. The BJI program also introduced its new Program Specialist, Eric Arce.


Professor Scott England

  • Joined the tenure track of the UNM School of Law faculty.

Professor Christy DeSanctis

  • Joined the UNM School of Law faculty.

Professor Emerita Gloria Valencia-Weber

  • Received the Pierce-Hickerson Award from the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association (NLADA) at its Annual Conference on November 8-11, 2023 in Oakland, CA.

Professor Vanessa Racehorse

  • Presented a work-in-progress, Tribal Health Self-Determination: The Role of Tribal Health Systems in Actualizing the Highest Attainable Standard of Health for American Indians and Alaska Natives, at the Gathering of Indigenous Legal Scholars, at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and UCLA Law.
  • Co-authored Achieving Climate Justice through Land Back: An Overview of Tribal Dispossession, Land Return Efforts, and Practical Mechanisms for #LandBack, in the Colorado Environmental Law Journal, 34 Colorado Environmental Law Journal 175 (2023). It is available at SSRN. The article was recently highlighted on Turtletalk, the leading blog on legal issues in Indian Country. 

Professor Gabe Pacyniak

  • Offered testimony in the Water and Natural Resources Interim Legislative Committee hearing in Las Cruces. The subject of his testimony was utility rates for low-income residents. Professor Pacyniak also spoke to the Legislative Finance Committee and the New Mexico Sustainable Economy Advisory Council. In both venues, he discussed how to strengthen the competitiveness of community-based organizations in New Mexico and Tribal and Local governments.  
  • Selected to be part of UNM's next Grand Challenges.
  • Was selected from a highly competitive process to participate in the Grand Challenges Day at UNM where the team will work “to create economic opportunities and equitable pollution reduction for disadvantaged communities in the transition to clean energy and climate resilience.”
  • Applied for an EPA grant to study environmental health disparities in underserved communities.

Professor Sonia Gipson Rankin

  • Presented on September 6, 2023 at the first Lobo Living Room event of the semester. The presentation delved into the intricate workings of AI algorithms and the far-reaching implications of bias on our ever-changing world.” 
  • Spoke on September 21, 2023 for the webinar series “AI and the Impact on the Practice of Law, with the National Center for State Courts (NCSC).
  • Presented on September 19, 2023 Bits and Briefs: A Deep Dive into AI for Lawyers,” to the Albuquerque Bar Association via Zoom.
  • Highlighted in President Stokes's Weekly Perspective for being featured in a podcast with Leo Lo, Dean of the College of Learning and Library Sciences. Professor Gipson Rankin and Dean Lo look at the rise of artificial intelligence and its impact on higher education, government, and the law. The podcast is called It's (Probably) Not Rocket Science. The very first episode features Professor Gipson Rankin and is available on Spotify.
  • Presented on September 29, 2023 “With Great Algorithms Comes Great Responsibility: AI and the Practice of Law, at the New Mexico 12th Judicial District Bench & Bar Annual Meeting in Mescalero, NM.
  • Presented on September 27, 2023 “Implications of Artificial Intelligence as Applied to the Legal Profession, New Mexico Court, Corrections, and Justice Committee. The committee agenda is available here
  • PublishedAI is Here. Here’s How New Mexicans Can Prepare, in the Albuquerque Business Journal.
  • Presented “Beyond the AI Horizon: Pioneering the Future, in Turnitin's Learnfest 2023. 

Professor Maryam Ahranjani

  • Quoted extensively in The Trace, the leading gun violence news source. 
  • Moderated and spoke on a panel with the Hon. Bernice Donald (6th Circuit Court of Appeals), Professor Carla Laroche (Tulane Law School), and attorney Daniela Donoso (Florida Legal Aid) at the National Association for Public Defense's Annual Womens Conference about ABA Resolution 501 (Ten Principles to Achieve Gender Equity in the Criminal Legal Profession).
  • Quoted in an article first published in the Santa Fe New Mexican that was re-published by Yahoo! News about Governor Lujan Grishams Emergency Public Health Order 2023-130 (the 30-day gun ban).
  • As director of UNM Laws Marshall Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project (with the Office of Student and Career Services), Professor Ahranjani co-sponsored two panels on Careers in Education Law on October 17, 2023.
  • Served as moderator for the Plenary Session of the conference Identity, Community, Academic Freedom, and Responding to Hostility,for the AAPI/MENA Women in the Legal Academy Conference at CUNY School of Law.

Professor Verónica Gonzales

  • Presented to the Project for New Mexico Graduates of Color, a student group on UNM main campus on “Race, Gender, and Class Conscious Approaches to Mentoring.” The presentation is available at the UNM Law Library's Digital Repository. Photos of Professor Gonzales taken during the presentation are available here
  • Published The Covid Ceiling,in the UCLA Chicanx-Latinx Law Review, 39 (1) UCLA Chicanx-Latinx Law Review 105 (2023).

Professor Paul Figueroa

  • Presented at the Second Annual Junior Faculty Business and Financial Law Workshop hosted by the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Out of over 80 papers, only eight were accepted. 
  • Published If You Draw It, Students Learn It: An Approach to Teaching Contracts and Other Doctrinal Courses, in the Journal of Legal Education, 71 Journal of Legal Education 468 (2022).

Professor Vinay Harpalani

  • Quoted in “Killing Affirmative Action Wasn’t Enough, Now Conservatives Are Coming for Black Women Entrepreneurs,” in The Root.
  • Interviewed by Philadelphia’s NPR station WHYY
  • Interviewed by the Harvard Crimson for the article “Did Harvard Intentionally Discriminate? In Admissions Discrimination Suit, the Supreme Court Doesn’t Say.”
  • Presented at Southern Methodist University School of Law “Asian Americans and SFFA v. Harvard/UNC.”
  • Quoted in the Wall Street Journal in the article “Activist Behind Supreme Court Affirmative Action Cases Is Now Suing Law Firms.”
  • Moderated a panel at Seattle University School of Law at the EPOC 2023 Symposium, Going Forward: The Role of Affirmative Action, Race, and Diversity in University Admissions and the Broader Construction of Society. 
  • Presented “Controlling College Curricula panel, “Race, Books, and Education: Selective Erasure, Misinformation, and Reclaiming Our Stories,” Webinar Series, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association Civil Rights Committee.
  • Presented What's Next? Diversity in Education After SFFA v. Harvard/UNC, Journal of College and University Law. The video is available here
  • Guest speaker on Writing/Righting Race in the Public Sphere, a seminar series at Fordham University School of Law. 

Professor Allison Freedman

  • Co-established the New Mexico Center for Housing Law (NMCHL), a housing policy initiative that focuses on innovative legal and policy solutions to pressing housing challenges in New Mexico.
  • Published Eviction Sealing Should Top New Mexicos Legislative Housing Agenda.

Professor Elizabeth Elia

  • Co-established the New Mexico Center for Housing Law (NMCHL), a housing policy initiative that focuses on innovative legal and policy solutions to pressing housing challenges in New Mexico.

Professor Emeritus Chris Fritz

  • Received acclaim for his book Monitoring American Federalism: The History of State Legislative Resistance (Cambridge University Press, 2023).
  • John D. Nugent in the journal Publius noted Professor Fritz's book is “valuable” and the reader “will learn a tremendous amount.”
  • Nick Allard in Jotwell called Professor Fritz's book “brilliant” and full of “meticulous, original, deep research and. . . illuminating insights.”
  • The journal Federal History also featured a roundtable discussion of Professor Fritzs book.
  • The H-FedHist Roundtable organized a discussion of Professor Fritzs book by Professor John Dinan (Wake Forest), Professor Todd Estes (Oakland University), Professor Bradley D. Hays (Union College), and Professor G. Alan Tarr (Rutgers Camden).

Professor Josh Kastenberg

Professor Emerita Sherri Burr

  • Recently elected Vice President of the Albuquerque Museum Board of Trustees.
  • Quoted in David Steinbergs book of the week column in the Albuquerque Journal about her chapter contribution to the book Holes in Our Hearts (Independently published, 2023).

Associate Dean Serge Martinez

  • Quoted in the article “Nobody Should Be Living Like This,” in the Albuquerque Journal discussing the plight of tenants having to live in appalling conditions in certain apartments in Albuquerque. 
  • Co-established the New Mexico Center for Housing Law (NMCHL), a housing policy initiative that focuses on innovative legal and policy solutions to pressing housing challenges in New Mexico.

The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government Honors Matt Beck as a William S. Dixon First Amendment Awardee

UNM School of Law Alumni Board President and UNM School of Law Alumnus Matt Beck was awarded the William S. Dixon First Amendment Award by the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government on Tuesday, October 17, 2023. The award honors the late William S. Dixon, a First Amendment advocate and FOG co-founder well-known as a leading defender of free speech and public-access rights. Beck was honored for his work rewriting the Children's Code Confidentiality Clause while working to achieve bipartisan support for a bill to improve Children Youth and Families Department (CYFD) accountability.

New Mexico State University Inducts Alumnus Brian Colón into the College of Business Hall of Fame

The New Mexico State University College of Business inducted UNM School of Law alumnus Brian Colón into the College of Business Hall of Fame. The College of Business Hall of Fame honors outstanding business college alumni who have distinguished themselves in their careers.

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