In his former partnership at Castille & Ortiz, LCC, and during his tenure with the firm, Mr. Ortiz has developed a broad base of experience representing private litigants, colleges, schools and public entities. Mr. Ortiz has been sought by municipalities, counties and the State of New Mexico as defense counsel for litigation involving tort claims, civil rights allegations, discrimination claims, property disputes, and education-related claims. For example, Mr. Ortiz is recently won dismissal of two lawsuits that had been filed against his client, the City of Las Vegas. He also was asked to represent Espanola Schools in a lawsuit involving a property line dispute, and he also represented the former NM Superintendent of Insurance in a high profile civil rights suit. In addition, Mr. Ortiz is currently handling litigation on behalf of private clients in personal injury matters involving car accidents, "slip and fall" injuries, medical malpractice, and insurance bad faith. As referenced above, Mr. Ortiz is a graduate of the National Institute of Trial Advocacy's Southwest Regional Program on advanced trial techniques. This broad experience in trial and appellate practice in a variety of practice areas makes Mr. Ortiz a uniquely strong choice in litigation.
As general counsel to public school clients, Mr. Ortiz provides advice on every aspect of a school district's responsibilities under the Public School Code and other substantive state statutes that frame the activities of public school programs. Mr. Ortiz's work and advice in this area covers the range of school issues, such as: conducting investigations for student disciplinary proceedings, sexual harassment complaints, drug free work place investigations, Title IX investigations, athletic code violations, proper accounting of school funds, employee grievances, documenting employee performance, overtime claims, religious expression, other First Amendment issues and special education issues such as the development of IEPs, disciplinary issues, alternative placements and other matters covered by the IDEA.
Mr. Ortiz's experience with education issues on a day-to-day basis also makes him a natural choice when schools seek assistance with policy review or drafting. For example, Mr. Ortiz recently drafted a protocol for administrators in conducting dog-sniff drug searches and drafted an administrative guideline for administrators to assist them with properly structuring and documenting staff discipline that reflect the Level I-III licensure competencies. He also has reviewed and drafted proposals for union negotiations on topics such as grievance procedures. In short, he has drafted policies for all areas of school need, from Meghan's Law (sex offender) issues to discipline, personnel, and dress codes. In short, Mr. Ortiz is experienced and prepared to handle the range of school law practice and litigation.
As a regular part of his practice, Mr. Ortiz often represents private individuals in their claims arising out of personal injuries. For example, Mr. Ortiz has represented clients suing other drivers or large companies for personal injuries and damages arising out of serious auto accidents. Similarly, Mr. Ortiz also has handled cases involving medical malpractice. For example, Mr. Ortiz is currently involved in a lawsuit against an area hospital regarding misadministration of medicine. Mr. Ortiz has also litigated cases involving slip and fall cases, and is presently suing an area restaurant for a hazard on its property that led to a restaurant patron to fall and break both legs. Many of those cases involve serious medical injuries and have required Mr. Ortiz to compile medical and therapy records, along with evidence of lost wages, diminished physical/mental capacity, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional damages, pain and suffering, consequential damages, and punitive damages.
Also in his personal injury practice, Mr. Ortiz has been asked to represent public entities in defending against such claims. For example, Mr. Ortiz is often asked to help schools assess exposure and handle investigation of alleged abuse cases. He also handles the multitude of accident cases that arise out of the operation of public buildings. For example, right now, he is defending against a lawsuit brought by a person who slipped and fell on ice in front of a city building and another case brought by a plaintiff who fell into an irrigation ditch. In short, Mr. Ortiz has an abundance of experience in both plaintiff and defense work in personal injury cases, experience that makes him a very strong choice for assessing and handling all types of injury cases.
A significant part of Mr. Ortiz's practice is litigation regarding employment cases. Mr. Ortiz has defended public and private clients in sexual harassment and other human rights complaints(age, race, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability discrimination). These include the defense of public clients for alleged violations of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments under §1983. For example, Mr. Ortiz represents police departments on accusations involving false arrest, excessive force, malicious prosecution, and other claims.
In addition, Mr. Ortiz frequently assists clients with other labor and employment issues including FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) issues, USERRA issues (rights of military personnel) and collective bargaining matters. Mr. Ortiz also represents education clients in administrative proceedings at the District level in employee grievances, terminations and discharges. Mr. Ortiz has assisted school boards in termination/discharge cases with a variety of underlying facts, including sexual harassment, lack of necessary credentials, reductions in force, workplace misconduct, including possession or distribution of drugs and unsatisfactory work performance. In a misconduct case from this year, Mr. Ortiz handled a district's termination of an administrator accused of sexually harassing a coworker. Last year, Mr. Ortiz defeated two separate employee arbitrations litigated before the American Arbitration Association that challenged the fairness and due process of two employees' terminations.
Mr. Ortiz's work in these areas is not limited to defense work. He has sued large employers, restaurant chains, utility companies and other employers for violations of anti-discrimination laws.
Finally, it is worth noting that Mr. Ortiz has been asked to provide training on employment matters to various groups around New Mexico.
Mr. Ortiz is regularly consulted on cases against insurance companies for violation of coverages or bad faith failure to pay benefits to their insured. In auto cases, it is typical that there are issues regarding uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance, "stacking" of policies, and subrogation (an insurance company's right to recover some portion of a settlement recovery). Mr. Ortiz is ready to handle all aspects of such cases.
Mr. Ortiz also litigates cases against insurance companies for failing to pay on promised coverages. In a current case, Mr. Ortiz is suing a large insurance company for their denial of a death benefit on a life insurance policy where the insurance company alleged that the decedent failed to report information on his health questionnaire.
Mr. Ortiz assists clients in all aspects of contract questions. Mr. Ortiz assists in drafting, negotiating, interpreting and enforcing or defending employment contracts, professional services contracts, construction contracts, equipment leases, commercial leases, real and personal property lease and purchase contracts, joint powers agreements and settlement agreements. Mr. Ortiz recently worked with one of his clients in handling a contract dispute with the school district's copier service provider, and he is often called upon to review everything from land use contracts and beverage service contracts to the more intricate construction contracts on multi-million dollar school projects. For example, Mr. Ortiz is currently representing the Roswell Schools in a conflict with a contractor over a six-figure roof and applicable warranties under the construction contract.
Mr. Ortiz often represents both public and private clients in front of administrative bodies in New Mexico. For example, Mr. Ortiz has represented school district clients before the New Mexico Construction Industries Division seeking to have "red tags" lifted from school construction projects. He has shepherded public purchases and sales of land through the regulatory review required by the Department of Finance. He has successfully challenged utility fines and back-charges before the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, and he regularly appears before the Secretary of Education on reviews of various administrative matters. Where a client's goals require advocacy before such boards, Mr. Ortiz is well-prepared to handle any such matters.
Mr. Ortiz has been sought by clients seeking alternative resolution options and mediation. In this context, Mr. Ortiz has been asked to hear both education and personal injury disputes between parties and to assist them with resolution options short of litigation.
With regard to lobbying, Mr. Ortiz has been hired by education clients to help secure funding for building and infrastructure projects through the legislative process. Mr. Ortiz's history and experience with state government, the firm's convenient Santa Fe location, and Mr. Ortiz's long ties to New Mexico make him a natural choice for such work.