Fambro V. Northrup

By: Bill Whaley
10 August, 2017

Summary of the Scene

On Monday, August 7, Municipal Judge Jim Fambro, a Taos High Graduate, County Commissioner, once and former fire chief, local hero, husband of the town’s finance director, and part-time town employee found the sign man, Jeff Northrup, first amendment advocate, who has lobbied for cheap gas, better care for animals, who has disparaged organized religion’s sins re: historic wars, scandals, and prejudice against LGBTG people, “guilty” of “rock throwing.” And fined the Sign Man $300 plus court costs.

Northrup’s taped confession of “throwing a rock at a vehicle” driven by admitted provocateur Damascio Martinez, a former town employee and aging “Hondo Dog,” who  admitted in court to running over the Sign Man’s signs and “taking” said signs, due to their “offensive content”  denied taking Northrup’s “cell phone.” Charges were dismissed against Martinez because the witness was in jail, jailed for contempt, i.e. Northrup.

The provocateur Martinez, police officer, Ron Montez, as well as Town Attorney Ross all referred to Northrup’s signs and labeled them “offensive” if not “slanderous,” which sign alluded to President Trump’s relations with his daughter. During the campaign Trump alluded to his daughter’s charms and its effect on him “if she weren’t my daughter” or something to that effect.

Though “speech” and “content” are allegedly protected by the First Amendment. Apparently Town government and its supporters seem themselves as the protectors of the community’s “morals” if not their own “ethics.”

Conflict of Interest

For Mr. Northrup had submitted a motion, hand-written, including a copy of the letter below in which Judge Fambro had recused himself re: Mr. Northrup in 2012. Challenged during his opening statement by Mr. Northrup, who read the first and third paragraphs, Judge Fambro said he would not recuse himself and according to “Jeff Shannon” the prior case (brought on Mayor Darren Cordova’s behalf) didn’t apply. Mr. Shannon, a Magistrate Judge and Attorney who went to law school and passed the bar was not present to defend Fambro’s characterization of his alleged opinion.

Meanwhile, post opening statement and Fambro’s refusal to recuse, Mr. Northrop said he would not speak or participate in the rest of the trial. The act of “civil disobedience” figuratively and literally can be seen as an individual’s right to exercise his fifth amendment right against self-recrimination.

But Judge Fambro found Mr. Northrup’s an act of disrespect for the bench, the robes, the Judge and charged Mr. Northrup with “contempt.” Immediately thereafter, at Judge Fambro’s behest, a town cop removed the offensive sign man, who was subsequently led off in hand-cuffs to jail in Taos County’s Local Lock-up, where he remains at press time (8 am).

Absent the witness, Northrup, who claimed Martinez, the provocateur, absconded with his cell phone (and his signs for which he was not charged), Fambro dismissed the charges. Sure there was no witness; the witness was in Fambro’s jail at the Taos County lock-up.

Other witnesses to the justice charade beside myself include the honorable Arsenio Cordova, A. Eugene Sanchez, and Jerome Lucero.

Calls to the local lock-up by friends on behalf of Mr. Northrup have been rudely answered by the County jail’s more unprofessional personnel. Mr. Fambro’s position as Chair of the Taos County Commission suggests how much he influence he may have at the midtown complex where county personnel work.

Mr. Northrup in an impromptu instruction as he left the court in hand-cuffs, asked “yours truly” to deposit $40 in his jail “phone account.” Which I did, thanks to the hospitable assistance of the clerks at the entrance to the formidable fortress that constitutes Taos County’s contribution to incarceration of the less fortunate.

Marx, Freud, Sartre

What with the Mayor and Town Manager’s “anxiety” about the offense given by Northrup’s signs to “Red State” tourists, who are enthralled with the Town’s country-western right-wing music culture, and Mr. Fambro’s obsession with being a part-time judge, one can recognize a pattern as the “good old boys” close ranks and cover-up “errors” and damning “emails” in the latest version of the class struggle whether over high rises or appropriate behavior.

Taos County offers little except hometown prejudice in the way of rehabilitation for the poorly educated incarcerated  Hispanic members of our community. This mainstream American prejudice embodied by the structural racism and internalized by locals as ethnic prejudice has been exhibited “historically” by the continuing “Hispanic on Hispanic” violence, whether due to “envidia” or sadomasochism.

The community at large has never addressed its own prejudice against its own sons and daughters, due as much to the “good faith, bad conscience” of self-deception as it is due to the notion that “revenge is sweet” and the relish for other people’s bad fortune.

Mr. Northrup himself is a victim of his own idealism, the reverse sexism of la familia, a loose screw or two, and an “abnormal ego,” which he has in common with the so-called Judge, Mr. Fambro. For all Mr. Fambro’s upstanding qualities as a community leader, he is oft criticized for being pompous and perhaps, though in his defense his less than stellar education at Taos High can be seen as reason enough for his poor understanding of ethics. It would seem he is sacrificing his reputation based on heroic acts for the rather dim rewards of a Muni Judge. He is no Dickie Chavez.

Ethical Complaints

Several attorneys and one judge all agree that the letter posted and deconstructed below, is an unparalleled example of hostility and prejudice aimed at Mr. Northrup. Apparently the “self-deceived” Mr. Fambro does not recognize the inherent “conflict of interest,” the tone and emotion, the vested financial interest he expresses in the letter itself. A favorite attorney once said to me, referring to her colleagues in the bar, “When they put on the robes, they change.”

Since Mr. Northrup’s incarceration something more sinister has come to this writer’s attention: a rather plot aimed at Mr. Northrup has developed into “forum shopping.”

Officer Montez originally charged Northrup in Magistrate Court. Judge Shannon arraigned him but then both he and Judge Ortega recused themselves and waited for a circuit judge from eastern New Mexico to appear. Meanwhile, Officer Montez dropped charges in Magistrate Court and re-filed them in Municipal Court.

In Magistrate Court Mr. Northrup requested and received assistance from an attorney with the Public Defender’s office but in Muni Court the Town does not extend the privilege of “legal representation” to impoverished defendants. Mr. Northrup represented himself, not so well, but not so badly either.

(A former district Judge once in open court referred to the muni doings as a “Kangaroo Court.”)

So it seems Officer Montez went “forum shopping” to find a “sympathetic judge” in the prosecution of Mr. Northrup, who has apparently “persecuted” Mr. Fambro, according to the letter below. Mr. Northrup has denied harassing Fambro friends or threatening the Fambro family income as claimed by the esteemed fire fighter and emergency responder, according to the second paragraph below.

At Press Time

Rumors abound. Some say Northrup will be in jail for 30 days, some that he will get out on appeal today. He has no legal representation yet. Judge Fambro may be the subject of a complaint filed with the Judicial Standards Commission.

Several attorneys have come forward and are looking at the case, all of whom went to college and law school. A member of the bench told me that the line in the letter referring to “a person of this caliber” is chapter and verse reason enough for “recusal” and source for a complaint against the Municipal Judge.

Ultimately, Fambro works for the Honorable Judge Richard Chavez, Manager Rick Bellis, and Mayor Barrone. “Ethics” is not high on the list of priorities for Bellis and Barrone. But tourism is. And the Sign Man is bad news. It’s just that Taosenos love their Pendejos and their Vato Locos.

You have to love this town but you don’t need to go to jail.

Here’s the letter from a wiser, younger Fambro.

The letter below, reproduced here, is stamped as having been received by Taos Municipal Court, May 30, 2012.
May 30, 2012
Judge Richard Chavez
Town of Taos Municipal Judge Taos, NM 87571
Judge Chavez,

It is with deep regret and with total humiliation that I must recuse myself from hearing the following cases, 2012091185 – CR, 2012091186 – CR, and 2012091157 – CR, all Town of Taos vs. Jeffery Northrup. This decision is based solely on the advice relayed to me by yourself from the Honorable Judge Sarah Backus.

Mr. Northrup has questioned my integrity and the integrity of the court which I was appointed and has done so in the lowest and most personal way he can. I defend my record as Alternate Judge for the Town of Taos and will never understand why this man can dictate and misuse Town personnel and funds for his own personal gain. His numerous ex parte communication attempts with me would not be tolerated by anyone in any legal position; however I have to allow him to continue to harass friends and make threats regarding my family, our income and mine and my wife’s job status.

The disgust I feel inside in having to recuse myself due to unfounded threats and statements by a person of this caliber will only make me work harder as a appointed judge in your court in the future and I am honored to serve with you in this capacity

Jim Fambro · ‘ -·.. . Alternate Judge
Town of Taos
CC: Dave.Romero, Jr., Special Council for Town of Taos
Honorable Sarah Backus, District Judge —
Jeffrey Northrup, Defendant –
Cyndee Perez, Legal Department, Town of Taos –

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