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Allegations of drug use and drunken driving among public officials in New Mexico have sparked a new trend — voluntary drug tests for politicians and judges. The movement was provoked by two developments in late May and early June: A prominent judge was charged with allegedly possessing cocaine and allegedly avoiding a driving while intoxicated checkpoint, while a local television station obtained a confidential document alleging a history of cocaine abuse among several New Mexico judges, attorneys and businessmen. “We need to restore public confidence in elected officials,” said New Mexico state Sen. Steve Komadina, who is sponsoring a bill that would subject elected officials — including judges — to random drug tests with the option of declining. “The rumors are rumbling all over the state.” Several judges have already shown their support and taken a drug test, including state Supreme Court Justice Edward Chavez; Ned Fuller, a Republican candidate for a seat on the state Supreme Court and Paul Barber, a Republican judicial candidate for the New Mexico Court of Appeals. “The public doesn’t trust the courts in New Mexico,” Fuller said. “It’s our responsibility to earn their trust.” Chavez declined to comment. Chief District Judge W. John Brennan of Bernalillo County, N.M., was arrested on May 29 while allegedly trying to avoid a DWI checkpoint in his car. Brennan has been a district court judge for 25 years and chief judge for 20. Brennan’s attorney, Charles Daniels of Albuquerque’s Boyd Daniels Hollander Goldberg & Cline, filed the judge’s resignation from the bench on June 29 with the state Supreme Court, effective today. The Judicial Standards Commission argued that Brennan should be suspended, but the court requested only that Brennan submit a response as to why he should not be suspended. Brennan is currently undergoing a rehabilitation program in California, according to Daniels. Following the incident with Brennan, television station KRQE obtained a confidential document alleging a history of cocaine abuse among several New Mexico judges, attorneys and businessmen. The station declined to name specific officials. The document is an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force report, said state Department of Public Safety spokesman Peter Olson. He asserted that it has “lots of informant information to try to make connections.” “It’s an intelligence report that takes rumors, speculation and hearsay,” Olson said. “There’s nothing that could be prosecuted on that count alone.” Komadina’s bill requiring drug testing should be ready to be heard when the state Senate resumes in January, Komadina said. The bill proposes that elected officials can opt to take a drug test within 48 hours upon random notification from the New Mexico secretary of state, and allows for the results to be posted on the secretary of state’s Web site. If public officials refuse to take the test, they can elect to submit a response on the Web site regarding their decision not to take it. If they test positive, they can post a response addressing the test results. The remaining option — to not take the test and not give a reason — will also be stated on the site. Komadina has not yet taken a drug test, but said he is willing to do so. “I really am one of those people who believe that less government is better � but you owe something to those who elected you,” he said. “It seems like the right thing to do.” The bill is drawing some public criticism. Bill White, a municipal judge in Edgewood, N.M., said he would resign before he is tested. White took drug tests for 20 years in the military, but said that people entering the military know that they’re going to give up rights. He said that he should not have to give up personal freedoms in order to compensate for Brennan’s arrest. “I just feel that the country is going in the wrong direction with more and more intrusive government,” White said. “Just how much are you willing to give up to catch one guy?” White also pointed out that the current rash of voluntary drug tests is ineffective, since it’s not random. “Cocaine is out of your system in 48 hours,” he said. “I don’t suggest that a lot of politicians are using drugs, but I’m not going to pander to the current hysteria � I think I have a thoughtful position, not a radical position.” Lindsay Fortado is a reporter with The National Law Journal , a Recorder affiliate based in New York City.

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