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Judges pick new boss for Metro Court

Judge Sandra Engel

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Metropolitan Court judges have chosen a new chief judge after the current chief lost his retention election earlier this month.

Judge Sandra Engel, who has served in the court’s criminal division since 2006, will take over as chief Jan. 1, according to a news release.

“I am looking forward to serving the citizens of Bernalillo County in this comprehensive capacity and ensuring that this already well-run court continues to operate in an efficient and effective manner,” Engel said in a statement.

Before becoming a judge, Engel worked as a prosecutor in Bernalillo County, an assistant city attorney for Rio Rancho, and she handled civil and criminal cases in private practice. She is a graduate of the University of Alabama law school and was admitted to the New Mexico Bar in 1994, according to the release.

As a judge, she has overseen specialty court programs and served as presiding judge of the court’s criminal division. She is now a member of the Supreme Court Ad Hoc Pretrial Release Committee and the Advisory Board of the Code of Judicial Conduct Committee. On top of handling a regular docket, she will oversee administrative matters, including the budget, security, building maintenance and personnel issues, the news release said.

Engel replaces Judge Edward Benavidez, who has served as chief since 2017, but recently lost a retention election. He has since applied for appointment to a vacancy across the street in the 2nd Judicial District Court’s criminal division.

Voters also decided against retaining Metro Court Judge Kenny Montoya. The Judicial Nominating Commission is accepting applications now from attorneys seeking appointment to one of those two positions.

Judge Yvette Gonzales

Judge Frank Sedilla

Engel has selected Judge Yvette Gonzales to head the court’s criminal division and Judge Frank Sedillo will continue to preside over the court’s civil division, according to the news release.

Voters also decided against retaining Metro Court Judge Kenny Montoya. The Judicial Nominating Commission is accepting applications now from attorneys seeking appointment to one of those two positions.

 

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