Commission also releases biographical information on one Court of Appeals judge it has not had sufficient time to evaluate
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – September 16, 2022
ALBUQUERQUE – The New Mexico Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission (JPEC) today recommended that voters retain one Supreme Court Justice and seven Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court Judges standing for retention on the 2022 general election ballot. Under state law, these judges must receive at least 57 percent voter approval to remain on the bench.
“The last two years have been very challenging for these judges. The Commission did take factors such as COVID-19 and the need to conduct hearings and trials remotely into consideration, as well as their overall performance," said Denise Torres, chair of JPEC.
This year, JPEC’s recommendations to voters statewide are:
Retain Honorable Michael E. Vigil, Supreme Court of New Mexico
Retain the following judges on the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court:
Rosie Lazcano Allred
Maria I. Dominguez
Brittany Maldonado Malott
Jill M. Martinez
The Commission did not make a recommendation to voters on Court of Appeals Judge Jane B. Yohalem because of the time frame of the evaluation, the rules governing the evaluation process and New Mexico legislation on judicial retention terms. Judge Yohalem was elected a New Mexico Court of Appeals judge in November 2020.
Torres noted that several Metropolitan Court judges did have fairly low scores among some of the populations surveyed, such as court staff or resource staff. Resource staff includes law enforcement, probation and parole officers and others who provide services to the courts. She said the Commission recommended retaining these judicial candidates because their survey scores were higher among other populations surveyed or had improved since their confidential mid-term evaluations.
"The Commission takes its responsibility very seriously and does not make a ‘do not retain’ recommendation unless the judge does not improve from his or her interim evaluation to the final evaluation, if his or her scores continue to drop and/or if he or she does not express a desire or commitment to improve," Torres explained.
To compile its evaluations and recommendations to voters, JPEC contracts with an independent market research firm to survey individuals who come in contact with each judge, including other judges (for Supreme Court justices and Court of Appeals judges only), attorneys, court staff and resource staff.
Judges are evaluated on their overall performance in four main areas: 1) legal ability; 2) fairness; 3) communication skills; and 4) preparation, attentiveness, temperament and control over proceedings.
JPEC also reviews statistics from the Administrative Office of the Courts for each judge including caseloads, excusals (reasons a judge is excused from hearing a case), recusals (reasons a judge is disqualified from hearing a case) and the time it takes to get cases resolved.
In addition, JPEC meets one-on-one with each judge being evaluated to review the survey results as well as his or her self-assessment of performance. The evaluations released to voters also include information on the judge’s experience and education.
JPEC has posted evaluations in English and Spanish on its website, www.nmjpec.org. Individuals may download voter’s guides for their judicial district or call 1-800-687-3417 to request information by mail. In addition, JPEC will inform voters about its evaluations through advertising and social media.
"We encourage each and every individual to vote in all elections for which they are eligible – including the judicial retention elections. These elections are near the end of the ballot, so please take the time to go all the way through the ballot and vote in each retention election for your judicial district. Your vote does matter," Torres concluded.
JPEC has 15 volunteer members, including seven lawyers and eight non-lawyers who are appointed to staggered terms. Members are appointed to represent diverse professions, backgrounds and geographical areas of the state.