Courthouse Fumble: The First Judicial District Court’s domestic relations hearing officer, Margaret Kegel, was forced to resign last week. One person familiar with the situation, who asked not to be identified, says the district court judges voted no-confidence in Kegel after suspicions arose that she’d spoken to a reporter. (SFR did not speak to Kegel for its July 8 cover story on multiple domestic violence murders, “Everyone Knew.”) Kegel did not return calls seeking comment. Chief Judge Stephen Pfeffer confirms Kegel was asked to resign but would not give a reason. Pfeffer says Kegel will be replaced.
Kegel’s departure came the same week that Judge Michael Vigil sentenced 26-year-old Steve Romero to 4½ years probation for severely beating his pregnant wife. Prior press accounts missed that Romero had been arrested twice previously for battery of a household member; in 2006, Judge Pfeffer accepted his guilty plea to a lesser felony charge. Romero also had prior arrests for violating probation. Esperanza Shelter for Battered Families Executive Director Sherry Taylor calls Romero’s light sentence an outrage and Kegel’s termination a “travesty.” City of Santa Fe Domestic and Sexual Violence Liaison Carol Horwitz sees deeper problems at work. “I’m very concerned our judges may not have enough domestic and sexual violence training to really understand the complexity of the issues,” Horwitz says. “Margaret had that training. She knew more than any of us in the field.”
Portfolio Pratfall: Retired local film producer Steve Marvin claims a Santa Fe investment adviser, Joe Allocca, mismanaged his savings. In a lawsuit filed last week in First Judicial District Court, Marvin claims Allocca “stress[ed] the importance of a well-diversified portfolio” but delivered anything but—making bets lost Marvin nearly $50,000. Though the entire market has declined dramatically over the past year, Marvin claims Allocca invested nearly 30 percent of his account in a single, non-diversified fund called PSPFX—and failed to notice as that fund fell in value dramatically between May and August 2008. Marvin says when he confronted Allocca about the falling investment, Allocca professed disbelief that PSPFX had fallen so quickly. Then, when Marvin asked what Allocca would do to stop “the bleeding,” he “announced that ‘maybe I’m the wrong person’ to handle Marvin’s investment affairs.” He then cancelled Marvin’s account and told his client he intended to retire in a few weeks. Allocca did retire last October; according to his blog, he has since traveled to Egypt and began writing a novel. Neither he nor Marvin returned requests for comment.