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Serna PatricioPatricio M. Serna

Honored June, 2013

Patricio M. Serna

 Justice Patricio Moya Serna, recently retired, grew up in a three-room log cabin in Reserve, New Mexico.  He tells young people, “If this poor little country boy can be the Chief Justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court, that’s what you can do!”  He attended a one-room elementary school, studied diligently, achieved straight A’s in high school and was elected class president. Patricio gives his loving family credit for inspiration, especially his sister Isabelle. “With positive focus, determination, and self-confidence you can be anything you want,” she told him.

     Although Patricio thought he would work at the local sawmill after graduation, a local priest helped arrange a scholarship from the College of St. Joseph in Albuquerque. After graduation, two years in the army, and work as a probation and parole officer, Patricio was inspired to study law. He received a scholarship at the University of Denver. He next studied at the Harvard Law School, then became special assistant to the Commissioner of Equal Employment in Washington D.C. 

      In 1975, Patricio returned to New Mexico and served as state assistant attorney general, then worked in private practice. Ten years later, he was appointed district judge by Governor Toney Anaya.  He rose to the position of chief judge.  In 1996, he ran for the New Mexico Supreme Court.  After putting 60,000 miles on his car and shaking countless hands, he won the race.  He served fifteen years as Justice, two years as Chief Justice. 

     Patricio has been described as highly protective of civil rights. Among many accomplishments, he worked to ensure that the bar examination was fair to minority groups, to require interpreters for non-English speaking jurors, and he fostered cooperation between state and tribal judges.  In recognition for his many contributions, Patricio has received numerous awards including  “100 Most Influential Hispanics in the U.S.”, Outstanding Hispanic Attorney of the Year, Judge of the Year, Excellence in Jurisprudence Award, and Hispanic Hero Award.  

     Upon his retirement in August, 2012, an annual scholarship from the University of New Mexico School of Law was initiated in his name.  Kevin Washburn, Dean of the UNM law school wrote, “Serna’s incredible grace and humility have made him a powerful force for good in our state.  He has been a model of gracious civility in a world that desperately needs that.”

     Patricio will now have time to paint, study digital photography, write a book from his famous case about the estate of Georgia O’Keeffe, and to travel.  He attributes his success in life to the love from his family.  “Family is the gem of civilization,” he says fondly.



Story by Margaret Wood

Photo © 2013 by Genevieve Russell