Courthouse Confusion, Cont.: A bill signed into law last month by Gov. Bill Richardson creates a new judicial position at the 1st Judicial District Court in Santa Fe. Although the backlogged district courthouse will be up one judge, it will be down one domestic relations hearing officer—a critically important position, according to domestic violence victims’ advocates.
According to a Feb. 24 article on The Santa Fe New Mexican’s website, Chief Judge Stephen Pfeffer told the paper that the current hearing officer, Barbara Ann Michael, “knew when she was appointed that the district would be eliminating her position if the bill [to create a new judge] passed.”
That statement is at odds with what Michael told SFR on Nov. 2, 2009, not long after she was appointed. At that time, Michael expressed ignorance and surprise when SFR presented her with rumors that the hearing officer position might be eliminated. “Wow,” she said. “You need to talk to Judge Pfeffer about that.”
After speaking to Michael, Pfeffer tells SFR “there might’ve been some confusion” as to whether new District Judge Sarah Singleton would be replacing the hearing officer. “The judges who were on the selection for the hearing officer position when Margaret Kegel was replaced made it clear to all the applicants that we were seeking to replace that position” with a new judgeship, Pfeffer said in a voice mail.
A person who spoke to Michael about the matter this year, after Singleton joined the bench, tells SFR Michael did not know when her job would disappear. Michael did not respond to request for comment.
There’s a final twist in the tale: Michael’s predecessor, Kegel, is running for the new judge position.
Huge Voter Turnout Disparities: On March 10, the Santa Fe City Council was set to formally accept the official results of last week’s municipal election, in which every incumbent councilor kept his or her job. SFR obtained an early copy of those results.
The lowest turnout in the city was in Precinct 33, which is bordered by Baca Street to the west, St. Francis Drive to the east, Agua Fria Street to the north and Cerrillos Road to the south. Voters in this diverse neighborhood voted—or rather, didn’t—at Larragoite Elementary. The precinct has 1,053 registered voters, according to the Santa Fe County Clerk’s Office. However, only 212 voters cast a ballot for any mayoral candidate. And only 138 bothered to vote for Councilor Carmichael Dominguez, who ran unopposed. This was only slightly below the District 3 average turnout of 21.4 percent.
The highest overall turnout came in District 1, where Councilor Chris Calvert defeated two challengers. Of the 12,490 registered voters in District 1, a whopping 60.5 percent turned out to vote. For more analysis, click HERE.