Margaret Kegel, 49 (Division 8)
1. I have served the citizens of the First Judicial District as a District Court Judge for a period of time in 2002 and as the Domestic Relations Hearing Officer/Domestic Violence Special Commissioner for nine years. I have heard more than eleven thousand domestic violence cases and more than three thousand family court cases. I received extensive training in handling domestic violence cases and subsequently was invited to provide training to other agencies as well. I have served as an expert in domestic violence law for the Legislature during two sessions, and have provided training to local law enforcement agencies and many other organizations.
2. I was born and raised in Northern New Mexico. I have served our community as a licensed attorney for 21 years. In my work, I have dedicated my time and effort to improving the lives of families by teaming with other experts in an attempt to reduce violence in our community. I have been willing and able to work outside the usual confines of my employment in pursuit of reduction of violence. Though working with domestic violence and child abuse is difficult, every success is well worth the effort.
3. The courts must become more responsive to the needs of our community. In these harsh economic times, the court must strive to be more efficient. Having recently returned to private practice, I have become very much aware of the negative financial impact on my clients caused by delayed hearings. In addition, the need to travel in person to the court house to process pleadings is burdensome. The court must become more accessible to all people in our judicial district by providing increased customer service, improving its internet site, allowing filing of pleadings and payment of fees to be made on-line.
4. New Mexico has high ethical standards for its judges. Improvement could be made in educating the judges and the public regarding those standards. Unfortunately, there are very few opportunities for judges to interact with the public at forums or other such events outside of the courtroom setting.
5 5. Having been born and raised in Northern New Mexico, I was fortunate to have the experience of living in a diverse community and of having lifelong friends who come from many cultures, races and religions. From my friends and family, I learned that the world is wonderful because each person is an individual worthy of respect. If a person appeared before me with a different personal belief, I embraced that instance as an opportunity to learn something new.
6. Pro se litigants should be welcomed into the court, and not be in any way discouraged from seeking to resolve their disputes as they are entitled by law. The courts are, after all, comprised of public servants who earn their positions and their pay at the will of the citizens of our community. The courts must become more “user friendly” to our pro se litigants by increasing customer service and improving on-line information.
7. It remains to be seen whether the current arrangement is adequate. As the former Domestic Relations Hearing Officer, I was assigned much more than domestic violence cases. I also heard one half of the interim allocation and child support cases, Children’s Court matters, and all involuntary mental health commitments. Since the remaining Child Support Hearing Officer is funded by the federal government to hear only cases handled by the Child Support Enforcement Division, there may be a need to hire a hearing officer to handle the private child support cases.
8. It is important that all judges be enlisted to provide support whenever any division finds itself in the position of having a backlog of cases. I did not experience having a backlog of cases either as a judge or hearing officer. If I did inherit a backlog of cases or was asked to assist with a backlog, I would enlist the assistance of all judges, hearing officers and attorneys to hold a “settlement week” in an attempt to settle those matters which could be settled. I would provide firm settings on all remaining cases.