Police arrested a well-known New Mexico judge Saturday after he allegedly tried to avoid a police checkpoint while driving drunk with a substance believed to be cocaine in his vehicle.

W. John Brennan, 57, chief judge of state district court in Albuquerque, appeared to be “extremely intoxicated” when he was pulled over just after midnight, police spokesman Trish Ahrensfield said.

Officers also found what they believed to be cocaine in his vehicle, she said.

Ahrensfield said officers stopped Brennan after he tried to avoid a driving-while-intoxicated checkpoint.

“He turned around at some point and kind of got caught in a dead end,” she said.

Brennan was booked on charges of possessing a controlled substance and evidence tampering, and was released on his own recognizance, according to jail records. A charge of drunken driving was pending results of a blood-alcohol test, Ahrensfield said.

A passenger also was arrested on a charge of possession of a controlled substance, Ahrensfield said. She was released after posting a $2,500 bond midday Saturday, jail records show.

There was no immediate comment from Brennan, who did not respond to a call to his home.

He has been a state district court judge since 1979. Since 1983, he has been chief judge, responsible for supervising and managing the court and serving as the court’s representative at the Legislature and in other official capacities.

District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said conflicts of interest will keep her office and many New Mexico judges from being involved in the case.

“I don’t know any judge in the state of New Mexico who isn’t familiar with him or hasn’t worked with him in some capacity,” she said.

Brennan is a high-profile figure inside and outside the state’s legal community. Fellow state District Judge James Blackmer called him “a truly outstanding judge and a fine, wonderful person.”

“He has routinely been classified as one of the top two or three judges by the statewide bar,” Blackmer said.

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