Saturday, November 17, 2012

Drab Day, Good Photo Opportunities

What’s Wrong With This Picture? (Click on any picture to enlarge.)

A little photo mission with my brother Guy and his wife Barb on Thursday afternoon found the refuge sparsely populated with visitors and birds.

The day had a mid-level layer of cloud cover.

There were birds, just not in the large numbers of years past.

Speculation, lack of birds might be due to a mild fall and it is also extremely dry.

Some fields are flooded to augment the wetlands, but there was a conspicuous absence of Canadian Geese.

A Golden Eagle established a perch on a tree in the center of an area half flooded and ventured out to dive and swoop, but this duck, below, kept flying as the eagle diverted its dive, and didn't come back with anything for lunch.

Among those viewing this raptor, there was some disagreement whether it was an immature Bald Eagle or a Golden.

Referring to the National Audubon Society’s Field Guide of Birds of the Western Region, based on the size and coloration, I’m going with it being a Golden Eagle. An immature Bald Eagle is larger and darker, it is actually larger than a mature Bald; having a greater wingspan. After its first molt, wing-tip feathers are not replaced. It’s like the bird loses its training-wheels.

A Golden Eagle is also smaller, with up to a six-foot wingspan, while the Bald has a wingspan up to seven and a half feet.

There were a variety of hawks, Harriers, Osprey, and Kestrel.

The stars of the show, the Sandhill Cranes were present, as were the snow geese.

This coyote was trying to jump the cranes, but they spotted him and those close took flight, while the others kept a sharp eye out.

At least the likelihood of this coyote is probably safe from the scheduled massacre, because it is making its home on federally protected land.

Near sunset, a small herd of deer came into an open field to graze.

At sunset we arrived at a very popular viewing location, the Flight Deck, where normally large flocks return to the wet area for the night. There was little activity as the sunset was muted.

Even the moon only showed the narrowest of a sliver.

So, What Is Wrong With This Picture?

Even with all the limited situations and weak light, many opportunities presented themselves.

This was a less hectic experience than others I have had where you seemed to be spinning, overwhelmed by the numbers of birds constantly moving and dividing your attention. This trip allowed one to savor the birds.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Kenneth John Gonzales nominated to United States District Court

President Barrack Obama nominated Kenneth J. Gonzales, right, a born, raised, and educated New Mexican, who is currently serving as United States Attorney, to be the next United States District Court judge for the District of New Mexico.

The President nominated Gonzales as one of seven to District Court judgeships across the country, according to a White House release from the Office of the Press Secretary.

His nomination is subject to advice and consent of the U.S. Senate. If confirmed, he will replace retired U.S. District Court Chief Judge Bruce D. Black, who left the bench in October.

Born in EspaƱola, in 1964 he graduated from Pojoaque High School and received from the University of New Mexico Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctorate degrees.

He was a legislative assistant to New Mexico’s U.S. Senator Bingaman on, among other issues, criminal justice and Native American affairs.

Gonzales was one of five names forwarded to the White House for consideration by Bingaman and New Mexico’s other U.S. Senator Tom Udall.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Robert Merle Schwartz

The Philadelphia lawyer, prosecutor, district attorney, defeated mayoral candidate, and Second Judicial District Court Judge, Bob Schwartz died Monday from complications – Pneumonia – after having broken his leg last week when he tripped over his dog.

He was 62.

When I joined the Albuquerque Police Department in 1976, Schwartz was a young assistant district attorney establishing a reputation of winning. He soon became a premier prosecutor in the office of DA Ira Robinson. He would become Chief Deputy DA under Steve Schiff until Schiff ran for and was elected to Congress.

Schwartz, who had been a Democrat changing parties to be elected as a Republican DA and would return to being a Democrat when he had to run for district court.

He handled several of my cases before the grand jury, but all those case went to pleas. I’d give him full credit for taking my police work and convincing defendants and their attorneys they did not want to risk going to trial.
I had one encounter in court with Schwartz that was unlike any normal judicial proceeding.

On April 26, 1996, I attended a State District Court hearing presided over by Judge Albert S. "Pat" Murdouch, into a citizens group's petition request for a Grand Jury to look into the City's payment of $450,000 to Officer Bruce McAllister.

McAllister had been an Albuquerque Police Department's narcotics detective who was targeted by a former Deputy Chief and his former narcotics squad sergeant, both who had retired, and conducted an illegal (unlicensed private investigators) criminal investigation against him into allegations of murder, rape and drug dealing.

Through the union, McAllister’s area representative passed him on to me; within minutes McAllister was talking to a lawyer.

The end result was McAllister was not criminally charged, but was fired and when he demanded an administrative grievance hearing the City refused to put on a case or to reinstate him; as a result the City settled for McAllister’s resignation in exchange for a payment of $450,000.

In court District Attorney Schwartz challenged the sufficiency of citizens group's petition for presentation to a grand jury because it lacked specific charges and evidence that are required under state law for a grand jury to be impaneled.

Schwartz lashed out at supporters for not having drafted the petition to include specific charges. Schwartz pointed to the spectators in the courtroom and stated that they were supporters and included two Albuquerque Police officers, (Billy Pounders and myself) stating, at least one who had been a former Union President and they know how to write a criminal charge.

Both Pounders and I were former union presidents; Pounders had an interest in the petition process, but he had not been involved in writing it.

I was in court as an interested spectator; I was not a supporter of, nor did I sign, the petition.

My interest was in McAllister, yet he was not at any risk through the grand jury process.

The citizens group's wanted to know how the administration had mishandled the investigation and why they refused to provide McAllister a due process hearing; that was being covered up.

I first saw the petition, (which was written in the form of asking questions about the legality of the acts committed rather than as statements of criminal charges) on August 9, 1995, when the citizens group's leader, Al Leath was a guest on the APOA Forum Cable 27 Public Access TV program.

The petition was already being circulated and I had no input into or influence on the request for a grand jury.

Murdouch accepted the petition ordering the impaneling of a grand jury: Schwartz was not going to present the case and the citizens group could not find an attorney willing to step forward.
Schwartz was plagued by personal demons – drugs and alcohol – and battled them for years; attending rehabilitation several times.

Through it all, he was always regarded as strong lawyer.