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Cybersecurity breach could delay court proceedings across New Mexico, public defenders office says

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — What officials are calling a cybersecurity breach at New Mexico's statewide public defenders office could lead to delays in some court proceedings across the state, the department reported Wednesday.

The New Mexico Law Offices of the Public Defender said the breach began last Thursday. A timeline for restoration wasn't immediately clear.

New Mexico includes 13 district courts, 54 magistrate courts, 81 municipal courts, probate courts and additional specialty courts, according to the Judicial Branch of New Mexico website.

The statewide public defenders office, which provides legal representation to low-income people facing criminal charges, is the largest law firm in the state with 13 offices, more than 400 employees and contracts with about 100 private attorneys.

The department said the cybersecurity issue was preventing its employees from accessing some internal records while also delaying communications with clients, attorneys and the courts.

"Email has been a primary way to send discovery, motions, communication and negotiations with prosecutors," department spokesperson Maggie Shepard said. "All of that is now basically stopped."

Shepard said the extent of the breach wasn't yet known, although she said it did not immediately appear that the private information of clients and contracted lawyers had been compromised.

In the meantime, the department is communicating with New Mexico's courts and its clients in person, by phone or by fax, she said.