Modrall Sperling Law Firm

Emil Kiehne is a former appellate judge and an experienced appellate lawyer. He served as a judge on the New Mexico Court of Appeals from 2017-2018, where he wrote and participated in numerous opinions.

Now, Emil has returned to Modrall Sperling, where he helps clients at all stages of the litigation process to maximize the potential of success on appeal. At the trial level, Emil drafts and argues significant motions and jury instructions, and in the appeals courts he prepares and executes the client’s appellate strategy. His appellate experience includes work in commercial litigation, torts, healthcare, constitutional law, administrative law, and employment.

Named a Tenth Circuit Litigation Star in Benchmark Appellate Litigation and a Future Star in New Mexico by Benchmark Litigation, Emil has also received recognition from Southwest Super Lawyers® based on peer review.

A native of New Mexico, Emil received his bachelor’s degree in History, cum laude, from Harvard University; he received his Master’s degree in Political Philosophy, sobresaliente cum laude, from the Universidad de Navarra in Pamplona, Spain; and he earned his law degree, cum laude, from Notre Dame Law School.

After law school, Emil practiced in the appeals division of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office for three years, and commercial litigation at a Philadelphia firm, Fox Rothschild, for one year. Emil then returned to New Mexico and practiced law at Modrall Sperling from 2004 to 2017, when he was appointed to the New Mexico Court of Appeals by Governor Susana Martinez.

Emil is a member of Modrall Sperling’s Commercial Litigation Practice Group; he is a shareholder in the Albuquerque office.

Emil regularly covers developments in New Mexico’s appellate courts and in the Tenth Circuit at the New Mexico Appellate Blog.


Notre Dame Law School, J.D., 2000, cum laude

Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona, Spain, M.A. in Political Philosophy, 1997, sobresaliente cum laude

Harvard University, A.B. in History, 1995, cum laude

Bar Admissions

New Mexico

U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (inactive)

Emil has handled more than 100 appeals, including:

  • Reversed $54 million nursing home wrongful death verdict against client, where trial court erroneously found that the corporate parent, rather than its subsidiary, operated the nursing home, Keith v. Manor Care, Inc., 147 N.M. 209, 218 P.3d 1257 (Ct. App. 2009)
  • Obtained $40 million reduction of punitive damages award in personal injury case from a district court on post-judgment motions; case settled before appeal
  • Affirming summary judgment for school district in Americans with Disabilities Act case, J.V. v. Albuquerque Public Schools, __ F.3d __ (10th Cir. 2016)
  • Reversed case-ending discovery sanctions against client, Couch v. Williams, 365 P.3d 45 (N.M. Ct. App. 2015)
  • Affirmed groundwater quality regulations for New Mexico’s copper industry against challenge by environmental groups, Gila Resources Information Project v. N.M. Water Quality Control Commission, 355 P.3d 36 (N.M. Ct. App. 2015)
  • Reversed administrative agency’s suspension of electric rates; appellate court held that agency violated client’s rights by acting without providing notice or a hearing, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association v. N.M. Public Regulation Commission, 347 P.3d 274 (N.M. 2015)
  • Reversed lower court decision, obtained ruling that client managed care organizations were not subject to statute mandating dispensing fee on pharmacy prescriptions, Starko, Inc. v. N.M. Human Services Department, 333 P.3d 947 (N.M. 2014)
  • Represented Governor of New Mexico in extraordinary writ proceeding, New Energy Economy, Inc. v. Martinez, 247 P.3d 286 (N.M. 2011)
  • Obtained reinstatement of $680,000 jury verdict in favor of client businessman, Sanders v. FedEx Ground Package System, Inc., 188 P.3d 1200 (N.M. 2008)
  • Obtained reversal of improper change of venue, Cook v. Anding, 188 P.3d 1151 (N.M. 2008)
  • Obtained reversal of false arrest verdict against client police officer, Kee v. Ahlm, 219 Fed. Appx. 727 (10th Cir. 2007)

Professional Activities

  • Regularly covers developments in New Mexico’s appellate courts and in the Tenth Circuit at the New Mexico Appellate Blog
  • Board Member, Appellate Practice Section, State Bar of New Mexico, 2016-2017
  • Member, New Mexico Appellate Rules Committee, 2008-2013

Community Activities

  • Board Member, New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, 2015-2017
  • Trustee, Catholic Foundation of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, 2012-2017
  • H. Vearle Payne Inn of Court
  • Leadership Albuquerque, 2010
  • Knights of Columbus, Officer, 2008-2011
  • San Clemente Parish Council, 2008-2011


  • 40 Tips in 40 Minutes: Electronic Research Tools and Resources for the Appellate Lawyer, 25th New Mexico Appellate Practice Institute, September 2014


  • A Guide to Blogs for the Appellate Lawyer, Appellate News: The Newsletter of the New Mexico Appellate Practice Section, Spring 2013
  • Benchmark Appellate Litigation, Tenth Circuit Litigation Star in New Mexico, 2013
  • Benchmark Litigation, The Definitive Guide to America’s Leading Litigation Firms and Attorneys, recognized as Future Litigation Star, 2013-present
  • Southwest Super Lawyers®(derived from a lawyer survey), 2014-present