Republican Dianna Luce, New Mexico 5th Judicial District Attorney, has decided to run again for office in 2020, with a legal issue concerning the year of elections now resolved.
Luce, who heads the state’s prosecutorial efforts in Chaves, Lea and Eddy counties, has been the district attorney since May 2015.
She was appointed by then-Gov. Susana Martinez to a position vacated by Janetta Hicks, who resigned for personal reasons.
Luce was then elected to the position in November 2016, running unopposed in both the primary and general elections. Luce earns $125,839 a year, given her tenure with the office, according to a state government website.
“My commitment to the citizens of the 5th District is my basis for running,” she said in an email. “I have dedicated most of my legal career to public service. When I applied to law school, my reason was to make a difference. As a prosecutor, we seek justice, we stand with victims and we seek to have a safe community.”
Prior to her appointment, Luce had been the chief deputy district attorney for the 5th District, working in the Hobbs office from 2009 to 2015. She previously had served as an assistant district attorney from 1996 to 1999. From 2004 to 2008, she was a Lea County magistrate judge.
A native of Lubbock, Texas, Luce received a Bachelor of Science degree from Eastern New Mexico University and graduated from the University of New Mexico School of Law.
She was named Prosecutor of the Year by the New Mexico District Attorney’s Association in 2013 and received the same honor from the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s office in 2012. She is the current president of the New Mexico District Attorney Association, which provides support for all 13 district attorney offices in the state.
She now oversees about 73 lawyers and administrative support staff who work in offices in Carlsbad, Roswell, Lovington and Hobbs. Luce heads the district’s work from the Hobbs office.
She said that criminal justice reform, as well as rehabilitation and diversion programs, are among her priorities.
“The biggest issue is criminal justice reform,” she said. “The move to reduce jail population and decriminalize certain crimes will have unintended consequences. The focus should be on drug rehabilitation, job training, education and mental health providers. Our district has one of the higher numbers of pre-prosecution diversion participants, and I have continued our Violence Prevention Programs. The VP program is a diversion program for misdemeanor domestic violence that allows the offender to complete the program and have the charge dismissed. The program offers counseling and accountability, resulting in the opportunity to break the cycle of violence and to stay out of the criminal justice system.”
The state’s district attorneys will run for election in 2020, although for a while, the timing had been a matter of litigation. House Bill 407, which passed in 2019, contained a section that called for district attorneys, as well as some other judicial candidates, to run for office at the same time as gubernatorial candidates, which would be 2022.
Luce was among eight district attorneys to join in a writ of mandamus with the New Mexico Supreme Court, asking that the provision be struck down, as they argued that it would create a conflict with the state constitution’s delineation of district attorney terms as four years. They stated that legal challenges might result over any convictions obtained in years five or six. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the district attorneys in late August.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.