It may be the most important local official you don’t get to vote for (at least not right away)—a person who can ruin lives with the thwack of a gavel.

At 8:30 am on Nov. 5, a select group of 17 men and women will meet at the courthouse on Catron Street in Santa Fe to evaluate the candidates to replace retiring 1st Judicial District Judge James Hall.

By chance, there are as many members of this judicial nominating commission as there are candidates for the job. Their combined applications, obtained by SFR, total more than 650 pages.

“You will see a lot of Democrats—locally, behind the scenes—pushing for people with the governor,” Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano says. “People don’t realize how much the party’s actually involved in some of these judge positions, and the jockeying.”

The commission includes eight Democrats and eight Republicans, plus Chairman Kevin Washburn, dean of the University of New Mexico law school.

“You have what’s essentially a peer review committee pick three people, and then the governor picks one out of those three,” County Democratic Chairman Richard Ellenberg says. “It’s a bifurcated process. The first part isn’t overly political.” The appointed judge will run in a partisan race in the next general election, and for retention thereafter.

Katherine A Basham
Age: 44
Born: Ohio
Employer: Basham & Basham PC in Santa Fe
Fun fact: Married to Santa Fe County Probate Judge Mark Basham; had her first child three weeks after taking the bar exam
Notable experience: Taught domestic relations law at Santa Fe Community College
Interesting reference: Santa Fe County Attorney Stephen Ross, who praises Basham’s “keen analytical, advocacy, and reasoning ability”

T Glenn Ellington
Age: 48
Born: Española
Employer: Ellington & Ellington LLC in Santa Fe
Fact: Hobbies include gardening, astronomy, basketball and weaving
Experience: Appointed Taxation & Revenue secretary
by Gov. Gary Johnson, former chief public defender for New Mexico, former 1st District judge, former judicial nominating commissioner
Reference: 1st District Attorney Angela “Spence” Pacheco, who writes, “he has always conducted himself in an ethical and honest manner”

Steven G Farber
Age: 63
Born: Philadelphia, Pa.
Employer: Solo practice in Santa Fe
Fact: Alpine skier who enjoys watching C-SPAN, “reading contemporary periodicals and throughout the week trying to finish the Sunday New York Times”
Experience: Assistant attorney general under state AG Toney Anaya, former Santa Fe city councilor, parked cars at a hotel in Atlantic City
Reference: Former Gov. Anaya, who praises Farber’s success in prosecuting public corruption cases and his “deep understanding of the balance of power” in government

Caren I Friedman
Age: 44
Born: Baltimore, Md.
Employer: Solo practice in Santa Fe
Fact: Former Johnnie who practices yoga and is married to the campus director of Southwest Acupuncture College
Experience: Former appellate attorney with the US Equal Opportunity Employment Commission in Washington, DC
Reference: State Court of Appeals Judge Linda Vanzi, who thinks Friedman “would be the type of judge any lawyer would love to appear [before]”

Kurt B Gilbert
Age: 37
Born: Albuquerque
Employer: Rodey, Dickason, Sloan, Akin & Robb PA in Santa Fe
Fact: Spent two years working the kitchen of a frat house at Northwestern University in Illinois
Experience: Mainly personal injury and malpractice cases
Reference: Lawyer John Pound, who writes: “I do not view the process as one where a lawyer chooses a particular candidate as a ‘favorite.’ In that spirit, I have already written a letter to the Commission concerning another candidate…”

Timothy R Hasson
Age: 55; Born: Philadelphia, Pa.
Employer: 1st District assistant district attorney
Fact: Pilot who plays the Irish fiddle and practices karate and aikido
Experience: Advocacy director for Community & Indian Legal Services (New Mexico Legal Aid)
Reference: Taos Public Defender Darryl Bouchard, who likes Hasson’s “superb work ethic and excellent temperament”

Michael R Jones
Age: 39
Born: Ohio
Employer: Clark & Jones, Attorneys at Law, LLC
Fact: Worked several summers as a wrangler at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron
Experience: Former state senate analyst, former assistant attorney general, former 1st District prosecutor
Reference: State Sen. Majority Floor Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Valencia, who writes that Jones “created a positive work environment”

Alisa C Lauer
Age: 45; Born: Nebraska
Employer: 1st District Court staff attorney under Chief Judge Stephen Pfeffer (also a member of the nominating commission)
Fact: Writes fiction on the side
Experience: Associate staff attorney for the state Supreme Court, assistant public defender in Santa Fe
References: Soon-to-retire 1st District Judge Daniel Sanchez and Chief Public Defender for New Mexico Hugh Dangler, who writes that because of budget cuts, “we have an even greater need for ethical, hard-working judges”

Mary Marlowe Sommer
Age: 52
Born: Pasadena, Calif.
Employer: 1st District Court domestic relations hearing officer under Judge Raymond Ortiz
Fact: Worked as a production assistant for The McLaughlin Group on PBS
Experience: Assistant attorney general under AG Paul Bardacke (who chaired Gov. Richardson’s 2002 campaign)
Reference: Judge Ortiz, who has “never seen her loose [sic] patience,” and John Pound (see above)

Francis J Mathew
Age: 57
Born: Phoenix, Ariz.
Employer: Solo practice in Santa Fe
Fact: Rides motorcycles and practices aikido
Experience: Personal injury lawyer and accountant
Reference: General Services Department Secretary Arturo Jaramillo

Sharon L Pino
Age: 37
Born: Santa Fe
Employer: Gov.-appointed domestic violence czar
Fact: Enjoys “golfing, bowling and reading”
Experience: Former 1st District assistant DA
Reference: Children, Youth and Families Department Secretary Dorian Dodson

Dennis C Quintana
Age: 58
Born: Santa Fe
Employer: Solo practice in Santa Cruz
Fact: Has handled over 160 mental health commitments
Experience: Española Public Schools teacher
Reference: Former Española City Attorney Martin Martinez

Sarah M Singleton
Age: 60
Born: Ann Arbor, Mich.
Employer: Montgomery & Andrews PA in Santa Fe
Fact: “I am one of the hardest workers at my firm”
Experience: Current board member of the Legal Services Corporation, which funds legal aid programs throughout the US; former state bar president
Reference: Lawyer Maureen Sanders, who writes that “Sarah is one of the smartest lawyers I know”

Nathaniel V Thompkins
Age: 51
Born: Wilmington, Del.
Employer: Jewell & Thompkins PC
Fact: Moved eight times in the past eight years
Experience: Personal injury lawyer; president of Zia Power, a solar company
Reference: Lawyer Michael Gross, who praises Thompkins and his fiancé for taking in two children “who would otherwise have likely been placed in foster homes” after the death of their father

David K Thomson
Age: 41
Born: Santa Fe
Employer: New Mexico deputy attorney general
Fact: “Past volunteer for the 4th of July Pancake breakfast on the plaza”
Experience: Former legislative aide to US Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM
Reference: NM Chief Deputy Attorney General Albert Lama, who writes, “Both Attorney General [Gary] King and I believe that David possesses those qualities necessary to be District Court Judge”

Henry R Valdez
Age: 52
Born: Santa Fe
Employer: Solo practice in Santa Fe
Fact: Golfs
Experience: Former 1st Judicial District attorney
Reference: AG King, who writes that Valdez will make “a distinguished judge”

Aaron J Wolf
Age: 60
Born: Los Angeles, Calif.
Employer: Cuddy & McCarthy LLP
Fact: Music director at Temple Beth Shalom
Experience: Domestic relations law
Reference: 1st District Judge Barbara Vigil, who writes that one of Wolf’s “finest qualities is his ability to get right to the point”