Schwartz died Monday at a Rio Rancho hospital. His death was confirmed to The Associated Press by the Second Judicial District administrator's office.
Chief District Judge Ted Baca said Monday evening that Schwartz had been away from the courthouse for the past several weeks while he recovered from a broken leg he suffered during a fall while doing yard work. But friends said Schwartz developed pneumonia and died at the hospital, the Albuquerque Journal reported (http://bit.ly/Zn6qsJ).
Friends called him a great lawyer and a great judge. "He was a really good trial lawyer," District Judge Charlie Brown said. "He knew the law and enjoyed the performance aspect of it."
Schwartz served as a prosecutor for 18 years and pressed a case against a woman charged with killing her deputy chief of police husband, and the case of Johnny Zinn and two others in the 1986 kidnapping and murder of University of New Mexico student Linda Lee Daniels.
As Albuquerque's top prosecutor, Schwartz waged public battles against several Metro Court judges, a sheriff, a U.S. attorney, various state and county agencies and two governors. He oversaw the short-lived prosecution of two social workers at the state Children, Youth and Families Department after a child died in the custody of her foster parents.
Schwartz sometimes ventured outside the traditional role of district attorney to promote policy changes, advocating AIDS testing for convicted prostitutes, urging lawmakers to reform the children's code and helping coordinate criminal prosecutions with civil lawsuits to curb graffiti.
He also was appointed crime adviser to Gov. Bill Richardson in 2005 and led an inquiry into the fate of hundreds of developmentally disabled people who were discharged from the state's care in the 1970s, sometimes without adequate oversight or follow-up care.
With his quick wit and sharp tongue, Schwartz also worked briefly as a stand-up comic.
Richardson said in a statement that Schwartz was a crime fighter at his core and always sought justice and protections for victims. "He was also a colorful character who loved life," Richardson said. "Needless to say, he will be sorely missed."
Schwartz was appointed to the state District Court in 2008 by Richardson.
Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com