NEW MEXICO JUDICIAL PERFORMANCE EVALUATION COMMISSION
RELEASES RECOMMENDATIONS ON 64 JUDGES STANDING FOR RETENTION THROUGHOUT NEW MEXICO
Commission also releases biographical information seven judges who have not served in current positions for a sufficient time to evaluate
ALBUQUERQUE – The New Mexico Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission (JPEC) has released its recommendations to voters on 64 District Court judges who are 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 three 'do not retain' recommendations," said Denise Torres, chair of JPEC. She continued, "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."
Former Judge James Hall, vice-chair of JPEC, added, "We believe the vast majority of judges strive 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 issued 61 "retain" recommendations and three "do not retain" recommendations to voters. The "do not retain" recommendations included two District Court judges in the Second Judicial District and one District Court judge in the Third Judicial District. In addition, the Commission issued biographical information on seven judges, one New Mexico Court of Appeals judge and six District Court judges, who have not served in their current positions for a sufficient amount of time to be evaluated under JPEC rules.
This year, JPEC's recommendations to voters statewide are:
Insufficient Time in Current Position to Evaluate Honorable Jacqueline R. Medina, New Mexico Court of Appeals.
JPEC's recommendations to voters by Judicial District are:
First Judicial District (Los Alamos, Rio Arriba and Santa Fe counties) – Retain five judges standing for retention: Honorable T. Glenn Ellington, Sylvia F. LaMar, Francis J. Mathew, Mary Marlowe Sommer and Matthew Justin Wilson; insufficient time in current position to evaluate Honorable Jason C. Lidyard and Maria E. Sanchez-Gagne.
Second Judicial District (Bernalillo County) – Retain 15 district court judges standing for retention: Honorable Denise Barela-Shepherd, Beatrice J. Brickhouse, Clay Pace Campbell, Benjamin Chavez, Nancy J. Franchini, Alisa Ann Hart, Gerard J. Lavelle, Cindy Leos, Jane C. Levy, Victor S. Lopez, Brett R. Loveless, William E. Parnall, Debra A. Ramirez, Marie Ward and Stan Whitaker; do not retain two district court judges: Honorable Christina P. Argyres and Jacqueline Dolores Flores.
Third Judicial District (Doña Ana County) – Retain six district court judges standing for retention: Honorable Manuel I. Arrieta, Marci Ellen Beyer, Douglas R. Driggers, James T. Martin, Conrad F. Perea and Mary W. Rosner; do not retain one district court judge: Honorable Lisa Claire Schultz; and insufficient time in current position to evaluate Honorable Grace B. Duran.
Fourth Judicial District (Guadalupe, Mora and San Miguel counties) – Retain two district court judges standing for retention: Honorable Abigail Aragon and Gerald Edward Baca.
Fifth Judicial District (Chaves, Eddy and Lea counties) – Retain seven district court judges standing for retention: Honorable Jane Shuler Gray, James M. Hudson, Dustin K. Hunter, Lee A. Kirksey, Lisa B. Riley, Mark T. Sanchez and William G. Shoobridge; insufficient time in current position to evaluate Honorable Michael Harold Stone.
Sixth Judicial District (Grant, Luna and Hidalgo counties) – Retain two district court judges standing for retention: Honorable Jennifer Ellen DeLaney and Jarod K. Hofacket; insufficient time in current position to evaluate Honorable Thomas F. Stewart.
Seventh Judicial District (Catron, Sierra, Socorro and Torrance counties) – Retain three district court judges standing for retention: Honorable Shannon L. Murdock, Mercedes C. Murphy and Matthew G. Reynolds.
Eighth Judicial District (Colfax, Taos and Union counties) – Retain one district court judge standing for retention: Honorable Emilio Jacob Chavez.
Ninth Judicial District (Curry and Roosevelt counties) – Retain five district court judges standing for retention: Honorable Matthew Edward Chandler, Donna J. Mowrer, David P. Reeb, Jr., Drew D. Tatum and Fred Travis Van Soelen.
Tenth Judicial District (DeBaca, Harding and Quay counties) – Retain one district court judge standing for retention: Honorable Albert J. Mitchell, Jr.
Eleventh Judicial District (McKinley and San Juan counties) – Retain five district court judges standing for retention: Honorable Robert A. Aragon, Bradford J. Dalley, Louis E. DePauli, Jr., Daylene Ann Marsh and Karen L. Townsend; insufficient time in office to evaluate one district court judge: Honorable Sarah V. Weaver.
Twelfth Judicial District (Lincoln and Otero counties) – Retain four district court judges standing for retention: Honorable Steven Edward Blankinship, Daniel A. Bryant, James Waylon Counts and Angie K. Schneider.
Thirteenth Judicial District (Cibola, Sandoval and Valencia counties) – Retain five district court judges standing for retention: Honorable George P. Eichwald, Cheryl H. Johnston, Cindy M. Mercer, James Lawrence Sanchez and Allen R. Smith.
JPEC contracts with an independent market research firm to survey individuals who come in contact with each judge, including other judges (for appellate judges only), attorneys, court staff, jurors and resource staff (law enforcement, probation/parole officers, etc.). Evaluations are performed 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 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 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 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 near the end of the ballot, so please take the time go all the way through the ballot and vote in each retention election for your judicial district," 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.