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Lawyers, Court Staff Ask Voters to Remove Some Judges

Unless you’ve recently been really unlucky in life or law, you probably cannot name a single judge sitting on the local Second Judicial District Court (aka, Bernalillo County District Court). But the judges on these benches are responsible for managing some of the most complicated civil and felony criminal cases in the busiest judicial district in the state—and that matters if you care about justice, fairness and civil liberties.

But what if a particular judge isn’t up to the task? Enter the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission. To keep judges from engaging in a political election process every four years, a judge in New Mexico keeps her seat as long as she obtains at least 57 percent voter approval in a retention election. (That is why your ballot asks, “Should this judge be retained?” instead of listing a partisan challenger.) If a judge fails to receive at least 57 percent of the vote, she is off the bench and the governor will appoint a replacement until the next election.

Using input from other judges, lawyers and others in the courts, JPEC gives the public a summary of how each of those groups rates a judge’s performance and fairness, then gives an overall recommendation to voters.

It is rare for a judge to receive a “do not retain” recommendation from JPEC, but it happened for two experienced local judges on this year’s ballot. For those judges, we have included an excerpt from the JPEC’s “Do Not Retain” findings to help you understand why. Read more on each judge at nmjpec.org.

JPEC Recommendations for District Court Judges

  • Argyres, Christina P., Do Not Retain
  • Barela-Shepherd, Denise, Retain
  • Brickhouse, Beatrice J., Retain
  • Campbell, Clay Pace, Retain
  • Chavez , Benjamin, Retain
  • Flores, Jacqueline Dolores, Do Not Retain
  • Franchini, Nancy J., Retain
  • Hart, Alisa Ann, Retain
  • Lavelle, Gerard J., Retain
  • Leos, Cindy, Retain
  • Levy, Jane C., Retain
  • Lopez, Victor S., Retain
  • Loveless, Brett R., Retain
  • Parnall, William E., Retain
  • Ramirez, Debra A., Retain
  • Ward, Marie, Retain
  • Whitaker, Stan, Retain

JPEC Recommendations for “Do Not Retain” (edited for brevity)

Judge Christina Argyres (Division 10): Attorneys gave her low rating for not always displaying fairness and impartiality toward each side of the case, for not exercising sound legal reasoning and for not being thoroughly knowledgeable regarding substantive law and the rules of procedure and evidence, and for not always being courteous to all participants and for not always demonstrating appropriate demeanor on the bench. The Commission has previously discussed the above issues with her and Judge Christina Argyres has not shown improvement in these areas.

Judge Jacqueline Dolores Flores (Division 20): Regarding fairness and impartiality, the attorneys and the resource staff (e.g., law enforcement, probation and parole officers, interpreters, etc.) gave her low ratings when it comes to treating all participants equally and displaying fairness and impartiality toward each side of the case, for not always being courteous to all participants and for not always being punctual in commencing proceedings. As to Judge Flores’ legal ability, the attorneys gave her low ratings in the areas of exercising sound legal reasoning and for her knowledge of substantive law and the rules of procedure and evidence. … During Judge Flores’ interview, she did not answer direct questions regarding how she planned to improve her performance.

All other judges on the ballot were recommended for retention.

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