SANTA FE, N.M. — Matthew J. Wilson on Friday was appointed by Gov. Susana Martinez as the new judge in the First Judicial District Court, filling a spot left by former Judge Stephen Pfeffer, who retired a week earlier.
Wilson, 44, who has been serving as a domestic relations hearing officer in the district, will handle cases that appear on the family law docket.
“As someone who has broad experience in the criminal justice process, Mr. Wilson is well-qualified to serve on the bench,” Martinez said in a written statement announcing the appointment. “I’m confident that he will continue his strong record of service to New Mexicans and will fulfill his commitment to upholding the law.”
Wilson, a registered Democrat, said he is grateful the Republican governor chose him.
“I’m humbled by the appointment,” he said. “I understand what a big responsibility it is, and I hope I can serve the community well as the new family law judge in this district.”
This was Wilson’s second try for a seat in the district, which covers Santa Fe, Los Alamos and Rio Arriba counties. He also applied for the vacancy that was awarded to Judge Francis Mathew last January.
While not a native New Mexican, Wilson had ties to the state prior to his arrival 13 years ago.
“My father was born in Las Vegas (N.M.) and my grandparents are from Las Vegas,” he said. “I’ve been coming here since I was a child, and my parents retired in New Mexico.”
Wilson grew up in Los Angeles and attended the University of California at Santa Cruz, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history. He later graduated from Stetson University’s College of Law in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Wilson spent three years as a prosecutor in Florida before moving to New Mexico in 2000 to work as a prosecutor in the 12th Judicial District in Alamogordo.
Wilson arrived in Santa Fe two years later to take a job with the Child Support Enforcement Division. He worked in the enforcement division for eight years before becoming a hearing officer, a job he performed for the last 3½ years.
After applying for the judgeship, Wilson went through a vetting process that culminated with an interview with the governor last week.
Asked what he thought set him apart for the four over finalists, Wilson speculated that it was his experience and reputation.
“This is a family law judgeship, and I’ve been immersed in family law the last eleven-and-a-half years,” he said. “I think I’ll be able to move into the position easily, given my experience as a hearing officer.”
Judge T. Glenn Ellington is taking over the criminal docket that Pfeffer handled.
Like Pfeffer, woodworking is one of Wilson’s hobbies. The newly appointed judge said he mostly makes tables and other furniture.
“It was something my dad and I did together,” he said, adding that he further honed his skills by taking a class at Santa Fe Community College several years ago.
Wilson and his wife, Stephanie, have an 11-year-old son,with whom, Wilson added, he enjoys going skiing in the winter.