ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the correct spelling of Sidney Hill, a district court spokesman.
A longtime family court judge in Albuquerque was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after being involved in a car crash Wednesday evening.
Deborah Walker, 65, was in a crash near the 2000 block of Candelaria NW at about 8 p.m. A criminal complaint said a driver made a U-turn without watching for other cars and caused the wreck. An Albuquerque Police Department spokesman confirmed that Walker was the driver making the turn. She was also charged with failure to keep proper lookout, according to the complaint.
An officer said in the complaint that Walker smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech and denied that she had been drinking. After taking off her high-heeled shoes, she performed poorly on three field sobriety tests and was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, according to the complaint.
The complaint said that a Breathalyzer showed she was above the presumed level of intoxication.
Walker was booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center after midnight Thursday morning and was later released.
She has been a judge in the 2nd Judicial District since 1993 and was appointed and elected as a family court judge in 1997, according to the court’s website.
Sidney Hill, a district court spokesman, said Thursday morning that Walker wasn’t going to make any statements “at the moment.”
Hill said Walker didn’t conduct any court proceedings Thursday and court records show that proceedings scheduled in front of Walker on Thursday afternoon were canceled.
Metropolitan Court Chief Judge Sandra Engel said in a court filing Thursday that all judicial divisions in Metro Court recused themselves from the case and that the chief judge of the state Supreme Court will assign a judge to preside over Walker’s case.
Any disciplinary action taken against a judge would be handed down by the Supreme Court after the Judicial Standards Commission investigated allegations of judicial misconduct and made recommendations to the high court. No action was taken against Walker on Thursday, said Barry Massey, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of the Courts.
Randall Roybal, the executive director and general counsel of the Judicial Standards Commission, said in general when a judge is charged with a crime or accused of a serious ethical violation the matter is handed to the commission.
He said he could not talk specifically about this case, citing confidentiality of the proceedings by law, but the commission typically then decides whether or not to file a petition for temporary suspension of the judge.
“The Supreme Court may sideline a judge administratively, temporarily suspend a judge with or without pay, pending completion of either the criminal proceedings and usually the commission’s proceedings as well,” he said.
He said the suspension is not a determination of guilt but simply a statement that it’s in the best interest of the judiciary and the public for the judge to not hear cases until the matter is resolved.
Roybal said the commission has dealt with a couple of judges charged with driving while intoxicated over the years.
“It doesn’t happen that often,” he said. “When it does happen it is of course a very serious matter for the judiciary and it is a very serious matter to the commission.”
Journal staff writer Elise Kaplan contributed to this report.