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Incumbent faces tribal court judge in primary

R. John Duran was one of three current or former prosecutors short-listed by the Judicial Nominating Commission for an opening in Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court in Division 8 in 2013.

Duran, 41, got the appointment from the governor to fill the vacancy, lost the election to current Judge Jill Martinez and was swiftly appointed again to fill a new vacancy in 2014 after he again made the nominating commission’s list of qualified candidates – this time when Judge Cristina Jaramillo moved from Metro Court to District Court. There was barely a month in between his move from Division 8 to Division 3.

Duran, who changed parties earlier this year and now is a Democrat, is again running in a partisan election to keep his seat.

Renee Torres, 47, a member of Isleta Pueblo working as a judge at Zia Pueblo, filed to oppose him in the Democratic primary. No Republicans filed, so the winner of the primary is the de facto winner of the seat.

If Duran keeps his seat, future elections will be only on the question of whether he should be retained.

Both Duran and Torres are graduates of the University of New Mexico School of Law – he in 2002, she in 2003. Duran worked his way through UNM as an undergraduate after Regis Jesuit High School in Colorado. Torres earned her undergraduate degree from New Mexico State University.

Torres, married to Claude Romero, is the mother of two children and says she always wanted to have both a family and a career. Before law school, she was a grant writer and program specialist for the Laguna Department of Education. After law school, she worked as a public defender in the Metro division and was a team supervisor before she left to become an associate judge at Isleta Tribal Court. There she heard every type of case except divorce.

She is now chief judge at the Pueblo of Zia Tribal Court.

Torres says she understands defendants’ challenges but is also concerned about public safety.

Duran became a prosecutor in the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office soon after finishing law school. Over the next decade, he worked in Metro, domestic violence, violent crimes and gang crimes divisions until being appointed to the bench. He has been the DWI/Drug Court/Recovery Court judge and now presides over the Homeless Court, which takes place monthly at St. Martin’s Hospitality Center near Downtown.

He was an adjunct professor for a criminal law practice course at the UNM Law School for five years until becoming a judge.

Duran and his wife, Andrea, have five boys, and he has been a volunteer coach and umpire for baseball leagues and a referee for youth soccer.

Earlier this year, he placed first in his age bracket in the Mount Taylor Winter Quadrathlon.

Duran says he brings fairness and integrity to the position, along with a wealth of experience presiding over trials.

Questions and bios for Metro Court judge candidates

John Duran

John Duran

John Duran
AGE: 41
EDUCATION: Juris Doctor, University of New Mexico School of Law, 2002; bachelor of arts in English and History, UNM, 1998; high school diploma, Regis Jesuit High School, Aurora, Colo., 1993.
OCCUPATION: Metropolitan Court Judge, Bernalillo County, 2013 to present; assistant district attorney, 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Bernalillo County, 2003-2013; law clerk, 1999-2002.
FAMILY: Wife Andrea; five boys
POLITICAL/GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE: Metropolitan Court judge Div. 8, Div. 3, 2013 to present; prosecutor, 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Metro, Domestic Violence, Violent Crimes, Gang Crimes, 2003-2013; adjunct law professor and supervisor, UNM School of Law, criminal law in practice course, 2008-2013.
MAJOR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: 2012 New Mexico Jurisprudence Prosecutor of the Year; Former Metropolitan Court DWI Drug Court/Recovery Court judge; current presiding judge over Metropolitan Court Homeless Court.
MAJOR PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: My wife and I are raising our five boys to be men for others in our community; volunteer Little League baseball coach, umpire, AYSO soccer referee; 1st place, 40-49 team, 2016 Mount Taylor Winter Quadrathlon.

Renee Torres
AGE: 47

Renee Torres

Renee Torres

EDUCATION: Juris Doctor, University of New Mexico School of Law, 2003; bachelor of arts, New Mexico State University, 1992.
OCCUPATION: Chief judge, Pueblo of Zia Tribal Court, 2015-2016; associate judge, Pueblo of Isleta Tribal Court, 2013-2015; public defender attorney team supervisor, 2012-2013, public defender attorney, 2004-2013, New Mexico public defender department, Metro Division; acting director, Job Training Partnership Act, Laguna Department of Education, 1999-2000; grants program specialist, Laguna Department of Education 1994-1999; grant writer, Pueblo of Laguna, 1992-1994.
FAMILY: Claude Romero, husband; two children.
MAJOR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Serving as associate judge for my tribe, Isleta Pueblo. It was very challenging but also rewarding. I heard every type of case except for divorce. The civil cases were most difficult because they involved children.
MAJOR PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Being a mom and having a rewarding career. I believe being a mom is the hardest, but greatest job. I always wanted a family and a career, and I am fortunate to have both.

Why are you running for and what strengths would you bring to the judiciary?
TORRES: I believe in the justice system and care about Albuquerque. Having been a public defender and tribal judge I have a balanced perspective. I understand defendants’ challenges but I am also concerned about public safety.
DURAN: I am the incumbent judge and I bring fairness and integrity to the position. A nominating commission vetted and recommended me to the bench. I bring a wealth of experience having presided over countless trials.
Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?
Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?
Have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony in New Mexico or any other state?