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County on track to get fourth district court judge this fall

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The 45,700-square-foot Sandoval County Judicial Complex at Idalia and NM 528 opened in 2005. Judges say the growing population means more cases, requiring more space. (Albuquerque Journal— MORGAN PETROSKI photo)

The 45,700-square-foot Sandoval County Judicial Complex at Idalia and NM 528 opened in 2005. Judges say the growing population means more cases, requiring more space. (Albuquerque Journal— MORGAN PETROSKI photo)

Sandoval County will receive an additional district court judge this summer, and residents will choose between two candidates in the November election.

The Legislature approved several new judgeships earlier this year, with one designated for the 13th Judicial District Court in Sandoval County. The district also includes Valencia and Cibola counties.

The Judicial Nominating Commission will accept applications through Thursday, May 29, at 5 p.m.

Application forms are available on the Judicial Selection website: lawschool.unm.edu/judsel/application.php.

They can also be obtained by calling Raylene Weis, who works for the Judicial Nominating Commission at the University of New Mexico Law School, at 277-4700.

The application requires, among other things, up to five letters of recommendation, according to instructions on the website.

Candidates for the position must meet several qualifications, including being at least 35 years old and a resident of the state for at least three years, having practiced law for at least six years and currently living within the district, according to the state constitution.

The Judicial Nominating Commission will meet June 9 at the Valencia County Courthouse in Los Lunas. The commission meeting will be open to the public.

The commission, according to its rules, will consist of the law school dean, chief justice of the state Supreme Court, chief judge of the Court of Appeals, District Chief Judge Louis P. McDonald of Sandoval County and several attorneys and non-lawyers appointed by the state’s political, judicial and legal leaders.

Applicants will participate in 20-30 minute interviews during the commission meeting. The commission may ask additional questions of the candidates following the interviews. The commission members will then deliberate after the interviews and select the most qualified people from the pool, Weis said.

Weis said Gov. Susana Martinez will have until July 22 to select from a list candidates recommended by the commission.

“The county will continue with plans to find space to accommodate an additional judge,” Sandoval County spokesman Sidney Hill said in an email.

The new judge will be the fourth with a courtroom at the Sandoval County Judicial Complex near the county administrative building. The others are John F. Davis, George P. Eichwald and McDonald.

Because Martinez will make her appointment after the primary election, the state central committees for the two major political parties will each select a candidate to run in the general election, Weis said.

“The SCC members for the counties involved … will meet prior to Sept. 9 to pick a candidate for the November ballot,” David Harwell, director of communications and rapid response for the Democratic Party of New Mexico, said in an email Friday.

Rio Rancho has seen the largest growth of any area in the state.

According to a report on the Legislative Finance Committee website, “The population explosion in the district created enormous numbers of case filings, particularly in the area of foreclosure and debt collection cases.”

(The Albuquerque Journal contributed to the reporting of this story.)

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