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Committee approves Riggs’ nomination

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The Senate Judiciary Committee voted July 18 to send the nomination of Kea Whetzal Riggs, a Roswell resident and federal district court nominee, to the full Senate for consideration.

Riggs, who has served as a New Mexico state district court judge for the 5th Judicial District, which includes Chaves County since 2014 — and is the county’s first female judge — was nominated by President Donald Trump in May to be a judge on the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico.

The nomination has now been posted on the Senate Executive Calendar to be voted on by all 100 U.S. Senators. No date has been listed for when Riggs’ nomination will be taken up by the full Senate.

If confirmed, Riggs will fill the seat on the court vacated by Christina Armijo who retired in 2018.

New Mexico U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, a Democrat who does not sit on the committee, said in early July before the committee voted on her nomination, that he and fellow New Mexico U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, also a Democrat, recommended Riggs for service on the U.S. District Court and is pleased to see her nomination move forward.

“Judge Riggs will bring a wealth of legal experience to the federal bench, and I believe she will serve New Mexico well in this role,” Udall said.

Riggs appeared before the committee in Washington D.C in June to answer questions about her judicial experience.

A native of rural Oklahoma, Riggs is a high school graduate of the New Mexico Military Institute and served as a part-time U.S. Magistrate Judge from 2001 to 2014.

In 2014, she applied for and was appointed by then-Gov. Susana Martinez to fill a vacancy on the state District Court for the 5th Judicial District, which includes Chaves, Eddy and Lea counties.

That same year, Riggs was unopposed when she ran as a Republican to retain the seat for a full term. She is married to Stanton Riggs, manager of Chaves County.

If confirmed, Riggs will not be the only federal judge with connections to Roswell.

Bobby Baldock, and Joel Carson, both former Roswell attorneys, now serve as judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

Baldock was nominated by then-president Ronald Reagan in 1985 and subsequently confirmed by the Senate. Carson was nominated by Trump and confirmed by the Senate in 2017.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.