Peter Schoenburg

Albuquerque Office


  • Federal Criminal Defense
  • Criminal Defense
  • Post-Conviction Remedies
  • Civil Rights
  • Health Care
  • Litigation
  • Federal Capital Defense

Peter Schoenburg is a partner in the Albuquerque office of Rothstein Donatelli, LLP.

He received his undergraduate degree at Yale University and his law degree at Rutgers Law School. He worked for over ten years at the state and federal public defender offices in New Mexico trying a wide variety of cases including capital homicides.

For ten years, Peter co-authored a bi-monthly column on the defense of drug cases in The Champion (National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers - NACDL).

In private practice since 1993, Peter specializes in complex criminal defense work in both federal and state courts. He is also a veteran trial advocacy teacher and taught Evidence and Trial practice at the University of New Mexico School of Law for 15 years.

He has represented federal capital defendants as appointed ‘learned counsel', most recently as part of the successful defense team in USA v. Larry Lujan, the first federal capital case tried in New Mexico since Furman v. Georgia. Peter has also successfully represented persons charged with a wide variety of white-collar criminal offenses involving political corruption, healthcare, tax crimes, environmental offenses, National Lab security violations, bank fraud, mail fraud, illegal trading in sacred tribal objects (NAGPRA and ARPA), and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations.

Peter has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America since 1995, including in the 2019 edition in the categories of Bet-the-Company Litigation, Criminal Defense: Non-White-Collar, and Criminal Defense: White-Collar.

He is a past recipient of the Charlie Driscoll Memorial Award, the highest award bestowed by the NMCDLA and, for his work as a state public defender, the NLADA's 'Defender Services Award'.

Peter recently defended Michael "Little Feather" Giron, one of seven federal defendants prosecuted for their actions as water protectors in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline at the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in North Dakota.


  • Yale College (B.A., 1975)
  • Rutgers Law School (J.D., 1978)


  • Southwest Super Lawyers - Criminal Defense: White Collar - (since 2007) - Only lawyer in New Mexico recognized in white collar defense
  • Selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America -Criminal Defense: General Practice , Criminal Defense: White-Collar (since 1995) and Bet-The-Company Litigation 2016-2017 (uniformly applied selection process including peer review and limited to the top 5% of lawyers in the state)
  • Named in 2013 as a Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorney in New Mexico by the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys
  • Selected by his peers as one of the top 25 lawyers in New Mexico - Southwest Super Lawyers (2012)
  • Charles Driscoll Memorial Award, NM Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, 2002
  • Defender Services Award, National Legal Aid and Defender Association, 1984
  • Appointment to the NM Public Defender Commission by Chief Justice Bacon, 2022


  • State Bar of New Mexico, 1978
  • United States District Court, District of New Mexico, 1986
  • United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit, 1986
  • United States Supreme Court, 1993
  • United States District Court, District of Arizona, 1994
  • United States District Court, Western & Northern Districts of Texas, 1995
  • United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, 1995
  • United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, 1996


  • New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (Past-President) (CLE Director 1995-2005)
  • New Mexico Board of Legal Specialists Recognized Specialist in Criminal Law
  • State Bar of New Mexico (Chairman, 1986 - 1987; Board Member, 1985 - 1988, Criminal Law Section)
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (Vice Chair, Judiciary Reform Committee, 2002 - 2003)


  • WildEarth Guardians -  Board of Directors, 2012 -
  • New Mexico Innocence and Justice Project - Board of Directors, 2010 -
  • Co-author of “Controlled Substances”, a bimonthly column in The Champion, October 1993 – March 2002
  • Publications: “Unspeakable Suspicions – Challenging the Racist Consensual Encounter”, The Champion, October 1993
  • “Survival Tips for the State Criminal Practitioner in the First Stages of a Federal Case”, The New Mexico Criminal Practice Manual, 1992
  • High Country News-Board of Directors 2022-

Prior positions: 

  • Chief Assistant Federal Public Defender, District of New Mexico, 1989 - 1993.
  • Assistant Federal Public Defender, District of New Mexico, 1985 - 1989.
  • Assistant Attorney General, State of New Mexico, 1983 - 1985.
  • District Public Defender, 1st Judicial District, 1980 - 1983,
  • Assistant Public Defender, 1st Judicial District, 1978-1980.


United States v. Larry Lujan  2:05-CR-00924 RB (D.N.M. 2011) (three month federal death penalty trial with life verdict returned Oct. 5, 2011.)  The first federal capital case to go to trial in New Mexico since Furman v. Georgia was decided in 1972.  Peter was appointed by the Court as Learned Counsel under 18 USC 3005.

Case v. Hatch 773 F. Supp. 2nd 1070, 2011 WL 1126335 (D.N.M. 2011) (22-year old murder conviction reversed based on constitutional Brady error, state supreme court's Brady analysis was contrary to clearly established federal law)

United States v. Velarde 485 F. 3d 553 (10th Cir. 2007) (granting evidentiary hearing on whether Government withheld information helpful to defense)

State v. Rendleman 134 NM 744 (2003) (finding some child photos taken by Santa Fe artist not to be covered by criminal statute and establishing, for the first time nationally, that the 1st Amendment may protect naked images of children)

US v. Hardman 297 F. 3d 1116 (10th Cir. 2002) (en banc) (finding that a member of an Indian tribe, not recognized by the Federal Government, has the right to possess eagle feathers for religious purposes)

US v. Velarde 214 F.3d 1204 (10th Cir. 2000) (Reversing conviction because Pediatrician allowed to vouch for truthfulness of child witness and not qualified to give opinion on sexual assault allegations under Daubert)

State v. Allison 129 NM 566 (2000) (reversing 1st degree murder conviction based on improper cross examination of defendant)

US v. Gonzales 957 F. Supp. 1225 (1997) (dismissing the criminal prosecution of a Pueblo man who shot an eagle for religious purposes based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act)

US v Kennedy 955 F. Supp. 1331 (D.N.M. 1996) (failure to maintain and document training of police drug dog rendered affidavit insufficient to establish probable cause to search bags)

US v. Greenspan 26 F.3d 1001(10th Cir. 1994) (new sentencing ordered when Federal Judge refused to recuse himself after defendant accused of plotting to kill the Judge)

US v. Boyll 774 F. Supp. 1333 (D.N.M. 1991) (dismissing prosecution of non-Indian member of Native American Church for possession and importation of Peyote on religious freedom grounds)