Gessing: New Mexico’s Supreme Court Ignores Law On Worker’s Compensation

Farmer Chuck Havlik. Courtesy photo

By PAUL GESSING, President
Rio Grande Foundation

New Mexico’s Legislature had previously enacted a law that allowed employers with more than three employees to opt out of coverage for farm and ranch laborers but not other agricultural workers. The liberal-dominated New Mexico Supreme Court — Justice Judy Nakamura being the sole exception — decided that instead of the duly-elected Legislature being called upon to change the law, they should simply ignore the law on the grounds of “equal protection.”

While some news reports hailed the decision as a victory to thousands of farm and ranch laborers” which is typical for the shallow understanding of most media outlets, the reality is that New Mexico’s green chile industry (for example) is facing major challenges and this decision will not help producers compete with imports.

Of course, it is worth noting that the Court has also undermined the rule of law by usurping legislative prerogatives by simply making up the law to fit their preferred ends. Lastly, businesses will (again and beyond agriculture) look to avoid New Mexico because our courts cannot be trusted. The rule of law is a basic element of economic freedom. Undermining it has caused America’s standing as a beacon of freedom to drop in recent years and it is an under-reported element of economic factors at the state level as well.

Shockingly (OK, not really), New Mexico’s courts perform rather poorly (ranked 45th by the US Chamber of Commerce) when compared to those in other states. It is also worth noting that workers in these fields chose to do so voluntarily. Due to this ruling, there will likely be a significant reduction in those employment opportunities. So, yet again, it may look like “victory,” but it really means fewer workers involved in New Mexico agriculture. Look for more automation and fewer farmers.

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