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A few extra Pop Quiz questions for the Appeals Court candidates, plus their answers on everything from the nuts and bolts of the court to their views on speedy trials, transparency and their childhoods. Read on!
1. What is the docket fee for filing an appeal?
2. Explain how the Expedited Bench Decision Program works and whether you think it is actually working.
3. Do you think that New Mexico’s appeals process needs to be expedited?
4. What personal experience has most shaped you as a (potential) judge?
5. Do you believe New Mexico courts need greater transparency? If so, how would you improve transparency?
6. What percentage of pro se versus attorney-filed cases are reversed by the Court of Appeals?
7. According to New Mexico’s Code of Judicial Conduct, what are two things a candidate/incumbent for the Court of Appeals shall not do while campaigning?
8. According to the court’s mediation conference procedures, what are two types of cases that are not eligible for mediation?
Ned Fuller, 45, attorney
1. I believe it’s $135.
2. I’m not sure what you mean by the Expedited Bench Program. It’s a program to expedite cases on the Court of Appeals. Yeah, I’m not familiar with the program, and so I don’t know that I’m qualified to say whether it’s working.
3. Yes. I mean, there’s a tension between wanting to get the cases done, um, quickly, so the parties have a decision and they can make—move on with their lives, uh, but also wanting the decision to be accurate, and so, uh, the point of the Court of Appeals and any appellate court is to have a little time to go through and make sure that there weren’t substantive mistakes that were made that need to be corrected. And there are times, I think, when that process takes too long, um, and there are times, however, when I think the process goes the way it’s intended and it goes pretty efficiently.
4. I would say that’s my upbringing. Um, I’m the oldest of five children. My parents were divorced when I was eight, and my mother was 28 years old—she had her high school diploma—and she obtained her nursing degree and raised five children, and her example, I think, probably most shaped me as far as an example of working hard, playing by the rules and doing what is right. So that would be the, uh, the thing that has most shaped me.
5. I think that transparency in a court is critical. One of the things we can do is make sure the opinions are available online, and I think many of them are, but we can do a better job of that as well as making sure the briefs and so forth are online. I know in the federal courts system, all the filings are posted online. Second, in the judicial selection process, one of the challenges we have is that there’s a, uh, group appointed, but their decision is kind of done, um, behind closed doors, and so it’s tough to understand how they come to their decision on who’s qualified and who’s not qualified to be recommended for appointment. If there was some way to open up that process, I think that would be helpful or at least lend itself to transparency.
6. I don’t know.
7. Well, you cannot promise or pledge that you’re going to rule a certain way in cases, and you cannot, um, solicit money from a party or an attorney, um…a party or someone that might have cases in front of the, uh, court.
8. I don’t know. I know that the Court of Appeals does not hear, um, cases related to capital punishment or a term of life imprisonment, and they don’t hear writs of habeas corpus, but they also don’t hear cases from the PRC. Right, but I’m asking, Of the cases they do hear, which ones can’t go to mediation? I don’t know.
Robert Robles, 60, judge on the Court of Appeals
1. It’s $125 for filing an appeal.
2. Ah, well, the expedited, um, bench program works by having the Court of Appeals decide, on its own option, whether to assign a case to the expedited bench program. And we, um, do, um, CYFD [New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department] cases involving children and—and custody cases and abuse and neglect cases on the expedited bench. And we assign them to there and then parties have an opportunity to object to being on the expedited bench program if they don’t want to be. Once we do that, then we do the, uh, move the transcript and the briefing more quickly than we do in other cases. Um, the court then sets a hearing date at the next available date, and we are prepared at the hearing to give a decision. And if someone requests oral argument, we automatically give them oral argument, but if they don’t then they’re welcome to appear, and they can hear what our decision is. Uh, it’s a hearing before three judges, just like other hearings. And, uh, that’s, I believe, in a nutshell, the way the program works.
I think it’s working well particularly for cases involving children’s issues, because you don’t want to leave children in a holding pattern without having resolution as to either abuse and neglect or parental custody issues, and this helps move that along more quickly.
3. Well, um, I think we can move cases more quickly. And I—that, I think, is probably the biggest challenge to the court in that it takes, um—depending on the kind of case; now, expedited cases, of course, are heard much more quickly, but some cases can take as long as something like a year and a half to be heard. And that’s due to a number of reasons, but yes, I think that, um, there is a challenge to the court to move cases more quickly, um, and I believe that that challenge needs to be met. How, specifically, do you propose to meet it?
Well, one of the things we’re talking about, and I’m in agreement with, is having judges taking, uh, more cases each month than what we’re currently taking to help, um, move cases along more quickly. And I’m fully in agreement with that.
4. The personal experience that has most shaped me as a judge is, I think, my upbringing, where I was raised in a working-class family, and I learned the value of getting up early, working hard and getting the job done.
5. Um, I think courts should be as transparent as possible. There are certain things involving, uh, individuals that are personal that perhaps you need to protect the individual, but by and large, I think the more transparent a court is, uh, the better, and I think by having things open on the, um, Internet for people to view as they wish to view them, the more the better. What would you have open on the Internet in addition to what we have now?
Um, I—I think the Supreme Court recently made a decision regarding what’s reviewable and what’s not reviewable. Of course, I’m not allowed to change that; I’m subject to the decisions of the Supreme Court, and I’m in agreement that as much transparency as possible is a good thing. I don’t know that I could—that I’m willing to say that anything else should be made available [other than what] now is.
6. Um, you know, the pro se filings and the attorney filings, I think, as far as reversals, I don’t think that it’s a whole significantly different. I’m thinking maybe somewhere in the 25 percent range is my recollection.
7. Well, two things you can’t do is you can’t, um, ask attorneys for contributions to your campaign, and you can’t ask people who may appear before you for contributions to your campaign.
8. Well, uh, you’re not eligible, um, for mediation if, um, it involves a criminal case and I believe you’re not allowed to mediate if it involves revocation of a driver’s license. Those are two of them.
1. According to the Court of Appeals website, filing an appeal costs $125.
2. According to court order Misc. No. 1-46, filed June 23, 2010, the court’s Expedited Bench Decision Program imposes shorter deadlines, limits the length of briefs and puts certain cases on a track for immediate hearings. Rather than deliberating, a three-judge panel issues its decision at the hearing and must publish a written opinion within seven days of its decision.
6. According to statistics published by the court, in 2008-09, 9 percent of pro se cases and 17 percent of attorney-filed cases were reversed.
7. Section 21-700 states:
Candidates shall not:
a) “make pledges, promises or commitments” that could compromise their impartiality on cases or issues likely to come before the court;
b) misrepresent facts about themselves or their opponents.
(Judges seeking appointment shall also not solicit or accept campaign funding.)
Incumbents shall not:
a) act as a leader or hold an office in a political organization;
b) publicly endorse other candidates for public office;
c) make speeches on behalf of a political organization; or
d) solicit funds for a political organization or candidate.
8. From the procedures: “Any civil matter pending before the Court is eligible except appeals in which one of the parties is incarcerated or in which a non-attorney is a pro se party* and in cases involving the revocation of a driver’s license, a petition for extraordinary relief, or an appeal arising out of the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code and the Children’s Code.”