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Mayor Wants To Hold Businesses Liable

Sometimes less is more. Mayor Martin Chavez would have been wise to heed this adage. He was sitting on top of the world with polling numbers that would practically ensure his re-election, but he couldn’t help himself. With all of the media attention focused on the legislature and the Governor, he just needed to do something to get in that game.

So, the Mayor devises a plan to grab some publicity by pushing statewide identity theft legislation. Normally, this would be considered pretty safe territory. A democratic mayor targeting criminals could now add “tough on crime” to his re-election resume. The problem is that Mayor Chavez, according to the New Mexico Business Weekly, isn’t just aiming at criminals:

New Mexico businesses would be held liable for civil damages for mishandling the personal information of customers and employees when it leads to identity theft, under a legislative package that Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez says he will support in Santa Fe.

Go ahead, read it again. The Mayor, an attorney with a legal degree from Georgetown University, thinks it’s just a splendid idea to provide trial lawyers with another reason to sue the business community. His proposed legislation is right up there with this (subscription) 2003 decision by the New Mexico Supreme Court:

Keys left in the ignition of an unlocked car invite theft, and stolen cars are 200 times more likely to be involved in accidents. Those might just be interesting facts until you put them into the context of a recent state Supreme Court decision. The court’s unanimous opinion says that, in those circumstances, a jury could decide to hold a vehicle owner liable for any harm that results from the theft.

How about we just start holding criminals responsible for committing crimes? I know that doesn’t make for a very good news story, and it doesn’t really require new legislation, but it sure does seem to make a whole lot of sense.