2014: New Mexico Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission Releases Recommendations On 85 Judges Standing for Retention

Evaluations Include One Supreme Court Justice; Three Court of Appeals Judges;
69 District Court Judges and 12 Metropolitan Court Judges

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – September 19, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE–The New Mexico Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission (JPEC) today released its recommendations to voters on 85 judges standing for retention in the upcoming election. To remain on the bench, these judges must receive at least 57 percent voter approval under state law.

“This was a very extensive evaluation process for us and included a number of difficult decisions because we did make two ‘do not retain’ recommendations,” said Denise Torres, chair of JPEC.

Former Judge James Hall, vice-chair of JPEC added, “We continue to believe the vast majority of judges throughout New Mexico endeavor to consistently improve their overall performance. This was evident during our evaluation process because a number of judges actually improved their scores from the midterm evaluations.” Midterm evaluations, which are not released to the public, are held midway through a judge’s term on the bench to help him or her assess performance and develop a plan, if needed, to address any area of weakness.

This year JPEC is recommending that voters retain 73 of the 85 judges standing for retention and issued “Do Not Retain” recommendations for one judge in the First Judicial District and one judge in the Third Judicial District. The Commission issued a “No Opinion” recommendation on one metropolitan court judge because not enough Commissioners (eight are required under NMJPEC rules) could agree on either a “Retain” or “Do Not Retain” recommendation. In addition, JPEC issued an “Insufficient Time in Current Position to Evaluate” recommendation on nine district court judges because they had not served in their current positions for two years and there was insufficient data to evaluate their performance under Commission rules.

This year, JPEC’s recommendations to voters statewide are:

Retain Honorable Edward L. Chavez, Supreme Court of New Mexico

Retain Honorable Cynthia A. Fry, New Mexico Court of Appeals

Retain Honorable Linda M. Vanzi, New Mexico Court of Appeals

Retain Honorable Jim Wechsler, New Mexico Court of Appeals

This year, JPEC’s recommendations to voters by Judicial District are:

First Judicial District (Los Alamos, Rio Arriba and Santa Fe counties) – Retain four of five district court judges standing for retention: T. Glenn Ellington, Raymond Z. Ortiz, Sarah M. Singleton, and Mary Marlowe Sommer. Do Not Retain Sheri A. Raphaelson.

Second Judicial District (Bernalillo County) – Retain 17 district court judges standing for retention: Shannon Bacon; Denise Barela-Shepherd; Beatrice J. Brickhouse; Charles W. Brown; Carl J. Butkus; Clay Pace Campbell; Jacqueline Dolores Flores; Alisa Ann Hadfield; Valerie A. Huling; Gerard J. Lavelle; Alan M. Malott; Nan G. Nash; William E. Parnall; John J. Romero, Jr.; Deborah Davis Walker; Stan Whitaker; and Elizabeth Whitefield. Insufficient time in current position to evaluate three judges standing for retention: Christina P. Argyres, Benjamin Chavez, and Briana H. Zamora.

Third Judicial District (Doña Ana County) – Retain four district court judges standing for retention: Manuel I. Arrieta, Douglas R. Driggers, Fernando R. Macias, and Jim T. Martin. Do Not Retain Lisa Claire Schultz. Insufficient time in current position to evaluate three judges standing for retention: Marci E. Beyer, Darren Murray Kugler, and Mary W. Rosner.

Fourth Judicial District (Guadalupe, Mora and San Miguel counties) – Retain two district court judges standing for retention: Abigail Aragon and Matthew J. Sandoval.

Fifth Judicial District (Chaves, Eddy and Lea counties) – Retain seven district court judges standing for retention: Steven L. Bell, Gary L. Clingman, Jane Shuler Gray, Lisa B. Riley, Freddie J. Romero, Mark T. Sanchez, and William G. Shoobridge.

Sixth Judicial District (Grant, Hidalgo and Luna counties) – Retain three district court judges standing for retention: Henry R. Quintero, J.C. Robinson, and Daniel Viramontes. Insufficient time in current position to evaluate Jennifer Ellen DeLaney.

Seventh Judicial District (Catron, Socorro, Sierra and Torrance counties) – Retain two district court judges standing for retention: Matthew G. Reynolds and Kevin R. Sweazea.

Eighth Judicial District (Colfax, Taos and Union counties) – Retain two district court judges standing for retention: Sarah C. Backus and John M. Paternoster. Insufficient time in current position to evaluate Jeff F. McElroy.

Ninth Judicial District (Curry and Roosevelt counties) – Retain four district court judges standing for retention: Donna J. Mowrer; Stephen K. Quinn; David P. Reeb, Jr.; and Drew D. Tatum.

Tenth Judicial District (DeBaca, Harding and Quay counties) – Retain only district court judge standing for retention: Albert J. Mitchell Jr.

Eleventh Judicial District (McKinley and San Juan counties) – Retain five district court judges standing for retention: Robert A. Aragon; John A. Dean, Jr.; Louis E. DePauli, Jr.; Sandra A. Price; and Karen L. Townsend. Insufficient time in office to evaluate Daylene A. Marsh.

Twelfth Judicial District (Lincoln and Otero counties) – Retain three district court judges standing for retention: James Waylon Counts, Karen L. Parsons and Jerry H. Ritter, Jr.

Thirteenth Judicial District (Cibola, Sandoval and Valencia counties) – Retain four district court judges standing for retention: John F. Davis, George P. Eichwald, Louis P. McDonald, and James Lawrence Sanchez.

In addition, for the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court, JPEC recommended retaining 11 judges: Henry A. Alaniz, Rosie Lazcano Allred, Edward L. Benavidez, Maria I. Dominguez, Sandra Engel, Kevin L. Fitzwater, Yvette K. Gonzales, Daniel E. Ramczyk, Linda S. Rogers, Frank A. Sedillo and Victor E. Valdez. JPEC issued a “No Opinion” evaluation on Sharon D. Walton.

JPEC uses an objective standard to make recommendations to voters, and reports its findings in narrative, table and bar graph formats. JPEC surveys individuals who come in contact with the judge, including other judges, attorneys, court staff, jurors and resource staff (such as members of law enforcement, probation, parole officers and interpreters) for their evaluations in four main areas:

  1. Legal ability;

  2. Fairness;

  3. Communication skills; and

  4. Preparation, attentiveness, temperament and control over proceedings.

An independent research firm distributes the surveys, then tabulates and reports them to JPEC. JPEC also reviews statistics from the Administrative Office of the Courts for each individual judge including caseloads, excusals and the time it takes to get cases resolved. In some circumstances, JPEC sends court observers to individual courts to personally observe and comment on the judge’s actions in court. JPEC also meets one-on-one with each judge being evaluated to review the survey results as well as to review 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 newly designed website, www.nmjpec.org, and those evaluations can also be viewed on smart phones or tablets. Individuals can download voter’s guides for their judicial district or call 1-800-687-3417 to request a printed guide by mail. In addition, JPEC will inform voters about its evaluations through statewide newspaper, radio and television advertising in October. Spanish evaluations are available on the website or by request.

Absentee voting begins Tuesday, Oct. 7; early voting is scheduled from Saturday, Oct. 18, through Saturday, Nov. 1; and Election Day in-person voting is from 7 a.m.-7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 4. Results will be posted on www.nmjpec.org as soon as possible following the election.

“We encourage each and every voter throughout the state of New Mexico to vote in all elections for which they are eligible – including the judicial retention elections. These elections are at the bottom of the ballot, so please take the time to vote, go all the way through the ballot, and vote in each retention election for your judicial district,” Torres concluded.

JPEC was established by the Supreme Court of New Mexico to improve the performance of

New Mexico’s judges and provide useful, credible information to New Mexico voters on all judges standing for retention during elections.

The nonpartisan volunteer Commission has 15 members, including seven lawyers and eight non-lawyers, who are appointed to staggered terms by the Supreme Court of New Mexico. Commission members are selected from nominations by the Governor, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Speaker of the House, President Pro Tempore, House Minority Leader, Senate Minority Leader and President of the State Bar. Members are appointed to represent divergent professions, backgrounds and geographical areas of the state.

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