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Home / Articles / News / Local News /  Judging the Judges

Judging the Judges

SFR queries this season’s contenders

May 12, 2010, 12:00 am
By

T Glenn Ellington, 49 (Division 7)

1. I have been practicing law for over 20 years. During that time I worked in many areas both in and out of Government. I have served as a State District Judge for 2 years (1997-2000). I have served as a Judge of the New Mexico Court of Appeals for 1 year (2000). I served for 2 years as Secretary of the New Mexico Department of Taxation and Revenue. I was Chief Public Defender for the State of New Mexico for 2 years. In addition I have practiced law in Northern New Mexico for over 12 years. I have represented more than 2000 clients. I have presided over or tried cases, ranges from criminal law to juvenile law to family law to complex civil litigation.

Having previously served on the District Court, I need no on the job training. I am very familiar with every type of case addressed by the Court.

As a former Appellate Judge, I am well versed in the substantive law and the administration of Justices in our State Courts.

2. I am a native of Northern New Mexico. My family has been here for many generations. I attended and graduated from public school. I am a graduate from both New Mexico State University and the University of New Mexico School of Law. Having previously served on the District Court Bench, I know that being a good listener is the most important skill I have developed over the course of my legal career.

Patience and compassion are necessary to see the case from the litigant’s point of view. A thorough knowledge of law is required to fairly reach a decision that respects the individual.

3. More resources directed to the two growing areas on the docket, family law and civil litigation. Over the years, several studies have been done on the caseload in the First Judicial District. Those studies concluded, we should have 10-11 Judges to handle the currant caseload.

Given the current financial situations it is unlikely that the Legislature will create any new judgeships or substantially increased staff for the Court. It is up to the local Bar and the Court to reprioritize the existing resources in the Court and to promote pro bono and unbundled legal services to get help to the growing pro se population.

4. Transparency and Experience. The problem is not that we don’t have strong ethical standards, the problem is that in some cases these standards are not followed. Transparency for a judge means that the public knows what a sitting judge is doing in his or her courtroom on a regular basis. The press and public service groups, who are regularly observe the Court, are the main source of information for the Public about the day to day activity of the Judges. Everything should be out in the open, neither the litigants nor the public should have to guess as to what was considered by the Judge or the basis of his or her decision.

Experience is the best predictor of how an individual will act in tough ethical situations. When we are looking at a potential judicial candidates background we need to know how varied that background is and how the individual responded under pressure. A person’s ethics is not something that is created on the spot but rather is the result of that individuals life time of experience.

5. Having served as a District Judge for over 2 1/2 years I know that the issue of one’s personal beliefs comes up all the time. The way I deal with this issue is to be honest with myself. You have to ask yourself the question, would I be comfortable with myself as a Judge if I was one of the parties in the case. If the answer is No or even close it’s the Judge’s duty to take themselves off the case.
I feel all Judges should conduct themselves in such a way that their personal beliefs are not a concern for the litigants or their counsel. If a Judge does anything that brings this issue into question, it is the right of the litigant to bring to the Judge’s attention and for the Judge to openly respond to the concern and remove himself or herself from the case if necessary.

A trial Judge’s job is to apply the law to the facts not to impose his or her likes or dislikes on others.

6. As I mentioned in my response to Question #4, pro se litigants are the single largest challenge faced by the Court. Working with the bar to provide unbundled or pro bono services is the first step. Next the Court must do a better job of explaining the process to pro se litigants. All too often people are frustrated because they didn’t know the process or how their case will move through the Court. Finally, the Judge hearing the case has to be experienced in that area of the law. It’s unfair to the public to do “on the job training” when people’s futures are at stake.

7. We need to keep pushing for the resources we need to fairly and effectively address the needs of the people of Northern New Mexico. We need 11 Judge positions in the First Judicial District NOW. We need hearing officers and support staff to hear issues and resolve them in a timely manner. Finally we need safe facilities to hold trials and hearings throughout the district.

8. Lack of resources; the Court need Judges, Hearing Officers and support staff to address these problems. I will continue to work with the other Judges of the District to educate the public. I will along with the other Judges of the District lobby our County Commissioners and the State Legislature, through the unified budget process, to make these needs a priority and to convince them to fund the Courts at a level sufficient to meet the public’s demands.

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