While attending the Walker oral argument at NMCCA today, I heard Judge Wagner referred to as Chief Judge Wagner. This led me to go back and look at NMCCA’s opinions, and sure enough — sometime after opinions were released on 11 January 2007 or before opinions were released on 12 January 2007 — Senior Judge Wagner became Chief Judge Wagner. Compare United States v. Keltie, No. NMCCA 200500264, slip op. at 1 (N-M. Ct. Crim. App. 11 Jan. 2007) (“WAGNER, Senior Judge”) with United States v. Smith, No. NMCCA 200600327, slip op. at 5 (N-M. Ct. Crim. App. 12 Jan. 2007) (“Chief Judge WAGNER and Judge VINCENT concur”). I would offer Chief Judge Wagner congratulations for assuming this important position and compliment Judge Rolph for his tenure in that position, but it would seem rather farfetched to think that either the current or former NMCCA Chief Judge would be reading CAAFlog to know that he was being congratulated.
As to the Walker argument, BZ to our very own Super Muppet of Appellate Advocacy — who I assume will read this compliment — for an outstanding oral argument. The bench was very engaged in the argument and each judge (Chief Judge Wagner, Judge Rolph, and Judge Vincent) was clearly well-prepared. To give you some idea of the gate at which capital cases can proceed through the military appellate system, LCpl Walker was sentenced to death on 2 July 1993 and had his case orally argued at NMCCA for the first time today. In fact, when Walker was sentenced to death, NMCCA was still NMCMR.