Judge’s stock holdings delay nursing home trial

By Darrell Todd Maurina

District Judge Joe Parker on Friday afternoon withdrew from a hearing on whether the state should continue to control Buena Vista Nursing Home.

Ten minutes before the hearing was scheduled to begin, attorneys for American Heritage Bank petitioned to intervene in the case between the New Mexico Department of Health and nursing home co-owners Dr. Ali Ghaffari and his wife Linda. Since Parker is a stockholder in American Heritage Bank and the parties couldn’t agree on whether he would be able to impartially decide the case, Parker announced that he would withdraw from the case on the grounds that his involvement could cause an appearance of impropriety, and Judge Stephen Quinn will hear the case instead.

No date for that hearing has been set.

The Ghaffaris’ attorney, Mike Bello, said what’s happening to his clients is a violation of their constitutional rights.

“My clients have put half of their lifetime into the establishment of a reputable nursing home in this community,” Bello said. “It is unfair for the state to jump in, in this manner, and take away their nursing home without adequate due process. In this case, my clients have not had any due process at all.”

Bello particularly objected to the procedure used by the Department of Health to take control of the nursing home by court order without the Ghaffaris’ prior knowledge. State law allows courts to approve a state takeover of a nursing home when residents are in imminent danger, but Bello said that’s not the case with Buena Vista.