Bob is remembered primarily for rescuing New Mexico’s public assistance program. Then Governor Johnson attempted to establish the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program without benefit of legislation. He vetoed reasonable legislation and pulled a substitute out of his pocket that would have been far less supportive of poor New Mexicans needing assistance. Bob sued Governor Johnson for constitutional violations and won dramatically in the New Mexico Supreme Court. Chief Justice Franchini issued the decision from the bench and the gallery erupted in cheers and applause. The Chief Justice did not have a gavel so he slammed his hand down on the bench to restore order to the court room.
Bob Ericson was a legal services lawyer through and through. Immediately after graduating from law school (UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law in 1971) he got a job with DNA People’s Legal Services where he immediately dove into complex litigation (a cert. petition to the US Supreme Court), a multitude of breach of contract and repossessions cases, credit repair scams and pawn loan issues. He worked in state, federal and tribal courts.
Several years later, Bob went to East Texas Legal Services where, as Director of Litigation, he developed a case review and training system that became a model in legal services programs nationwide. He then did another stint in Navajo country challenging Arizona’s school finance formula, which diverted money designated to benefit Indian School Districts to other purposes.
Bob returned to Albuquerque in the late 1980’s to be the director of the New Mexico Legal Services Support Project, which provided training and litigation support to the legal services programs throughout the state. The Support Project was the forerunner of the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and when the Center was formed to provide impact and systemic advocacy and litigation for people living in poverty, Bob was chosen to lead the organization.
Bob was known as a meticulous, skilled and compassionate attorney. His work and his leadership helped formulate the culture here at the Center on Law and Poverty, of excellent work, integrity, and service to poor New Mexicans.