Four New Mexicans to Receive William S. Dixon First Amendment Award

The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government (NMFOG) today named four New Mexicans, who advocated for the public’s right to access records and government proceedings, as recipients of the 2018 the William S. Dixon First Amendment Award.  All of the recipients will be honored at a luncheon, Wednesday, Oct. 3, in Albuquerque.

“The actions, perseverance and determination of these Dixon award recipients to shed a light on the workings of the public’s business is important to all New Mexicans and NMFOG is privileged to honor them,” Kathi Bearden, Dixon Award Committee chairwoman, said in announcing the 2018 recipients.

The 2018 Dixon First Amendment Award winners and their categories include:

Citizen: Jorja Armijo-Brasher, former director of Office of Senior Affairs, City of Albuquerque.  Ms. Brasher worked to change the system that historically kept hearings and cases regarding adult guardianship secret. She pushed for transparency in how a special state Supreme Court adult guardianship study commission’s business was conducted, by asking that minutes be kept and provided.

Law: The Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg Urias & Ward PA. This law firm has been involved in almost every major IPRA lawsuit filed in New Mexico in the past 12 months. They represented Daniel Libit, an independent reporter, in his lawsuit against the University of New Mexico Foundation, asking for foundation records; another lawsuit involving Lobo Sports Properties, again asking for records; a suit against the New Mexico General Services Department seeking records of payments for outside legal work; and a suit against the Attorney General for liquidated damages. Most of the cases have been for a small retainer or on contingency.

Government: New Mexico state Sen. James White, R-19. Sen. White worked tirelessly to gain passage of legislation to institute more transparency in the state’s adult guardianship system, which had been closed to not only the public but family members as well. New laws and court rules are a big step toward increased protection of the assets and rights of the elderly and others who are incapacitated and unable to manage their personal affairs.  In addition, $1 million was appropriated to help the courts improve oversight of these cases.

Media: Nancy Laflin, KOAT-TV 7 journalist. Ms. Laflin’s investigative work spans more than two decades.  Her most recent efforts involve requests for jailhouse visitor logs and phone calls for three individuals charged in the case of 10-year-old Victoria Martin, who was murdered last year. Ms. Laflin’s fight for records shows her willingness to fight for government transparency. When her second request was denied, she appealed to the Attorney General (AG).  The AG’s Office concluded the denial of these records was an Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) violation and within days Laflin received the requested documents.

The Dixon honor recognizes the outstanding accomplishments of citizens and organizations in New Mexico who ensure everyone’s rights to information and defend the people’s right to know the affairs of government.

The award honors the late William S. Dixon, a First Amendment advocate and NMFOG co-founder well-known as a leading defender of free speech and public-access rights. NMFOG asks members of the public to submit nominations

The luncheon will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Embassy Suites, 1000 Woodward Place, NE, in Albuquerque on Wednesday, Oct. 3. Individual tickets are $60, and sponsorship opportunities are available. All proceeds benefit the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, a 501(c)(3) New Mexican nonprofit corporation. For more information, call 505-764-3750.