On Nov. 4, Santa Fe County voters will be asked to vote on the retention of:
    •    one state Supreme Court judge
    •    one state Court of Appeals judge
    •    seven judges in the 1st Judicial District, which covers Santa Fe, Los Alamos and Rio Arriba counties.

These judges require 57 percent voter approval to be retained. For our recommendations, we relied almost entirely on the evaluations by the state’s Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission.

JPEC conducts mid-term evaluations, which are not released to the public, and then a second evaluation, which eventually does become public, prior to retention elections. Those evaluations include confidential written surveys with staff and attorneys who work with the judges, as well as personal interviews with the judges. (For District Court, surveys also are sent to jurors). The judges are evaluated in four main areas, which are, broadly: legal abilities, fairness, communication and general preparedness.

In addition to looking at the JPEC evaluations, we also subjected the 1st Judicial District judges to our Pop Quiz series.

Supreme Court Justice Patricio Serna
SFR Pick: Retain
Serna has been on the Supreme Court since 1996 and served as chief justice in 2001 and 2002. The majority of his review by JPEC is positive, although it did reflect some criticisms from court staff regarding his knowledge of the law and timeliness (although JPEC indicates Serna has been timely in his rulings, according to court statistics).

Court of Appeals Judge Jonathan B Sutin

SFR Pick: Retain
Sutin has been on the Court of Appeals since 1999 and received high marks from all evaluated parties.

1st Judicial District
Timothy L Garcia
SFR Pick: Retain
Judge Garcia was elected in 2002. He received generally good ratings in his JPEC review, although staff rated him slightly lower for punctuality, which Garcia told JPEC he would work on improving.

Jim Hall
SFR Pick: Retain
Judge Hall was first appointed to the court in 1995 and then elected in 1996. He received overall positive marks in all areas of evaluation.

Raymond Z Ortiz
SFR Pick: Retain
Ortiz was appointed to the court in 2005 and then elected in 2006. His evaluations from lawyers and resource staff was positive, but court staff gave Ortiz lower marks in the areas of punctuality and respect for all court staff. Ortiz indicated he would work to improve in these areas.

Steve D Pfeffer
SFR Pick: Retain
Judge Pfeffer is the Chief Judge for the district; he was appointed in 1996, elected in 1998 and is currently the chief judge for the 1st Judicial District. He received positive evaluations in all areas, except punctuality, in which lawyers rated him slightly lower, a criticism JPEC says Pfeffer plans to address.

Daniel Sanchez
SFR Pick: Retain
On the bench for nine years, Sanchez received generally positive evaluations—and his scores improved in all areas since 2005, but some of the lawyers gave him slightly lower marks on promptness in scheduling hearings and knowledge of some components of the law.

Barbara J Vigil
SFR Pick: Retain
Vigil was appointed to the court in May 2000 and then elected in November of the same year. Her overall scores from court staff, resource staff and lawyers were positive. Vigil did receive some lower scores, JPEC says, “on issues such as avoiding prejudging the outcome of cases, treating all participants equally, and for her knowledge regarding substantive law and the rules of procedure and evidence.” JPEC says Vigil recognizes the need to improve in these areas.

Michael Eugene Vigil
SFR Pick: Retain
Judge Vigil has served on the court since 1994 and received high marks from staff and lawyers in the areas evaluated.

Web extra: Check out how 1st Judicial District judges fared in this year’s Pop Quiz series.

Go to nmjpec.org to read the entirety of the JPEC evaluations.