It’s that time of year when voters get to decide which judges deserve to keep their jobs. This year’s election includes judicial retention questions for a justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court, a judge of the court of appeals and seven metropolitan court judges.
The Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission, which was created by the Supreme Court of New Mexico to improve the performance of judges and provide information for voters, offers recommendations for the seven metropolitan court judges and supreme court justice on the ballot.
The JPEC recommends retaining all seven metro judges and Supreme Court Justice Michael E. Vigil. The commission did not have enough time to evaluate court of appeals judge Jane B. Yohalem, who is also on the ballot for retention.
The commission surveys attorneys, court staff, resource staff, appellate judges and district judges to see if they agree or disagree that judges being evaluated exhibit positive qualities in different categories.
For Vigil, the JPEC received a 32% response rate from attorneys. Of the attorneys responding to the survey, 84% agree that Vigil exhibits integrity and 88% agree that his demeanor is appropriate. Ten percent of the attorneys surveyed disagree that he is knowledgeable of the law, 17% of court staff surveyed disagree that he respects court employees and 25% of appellate judges disagree with the timeliness of ruling category.
An evaluation summary on the JPEC website says the survey results for Vigil “were generally positive” but also notes that appellate judges were less positive regarding Vigil’s “timeliness in making rulings and rendering decisions.”
The commission recommends retaining metro court judges Rosie Lazcano Allred, Vidalia Chavez, Maria I. Dominguez, Jason Jaramillo, Brittany Maldonado Malott, Jill M. Martinez and Christine Rodriguez. Most of the metro court judges received positive feedback from those being surveyed, with the exception of a few categories.
For Chavez, 24% of the resource staff surveyed disagree that she is fair and impartial. For Jaramillo, 22% of attorneys surveyed disagree that he is fair and impartial. Malott also received negative feedback, with 41% of resource staff surveyed disagreeing that she is fair and impartial and 24% disagreeing with the appropriate demeanor category.
Forty-nine percent of the court staff surveyed disagree that Martinez respects court employees and 36% disagree that she exhibits integrity. Twenty percent of resource staff surveyed disagree that Martinez is fair and impartial and 20% disagree with the appropriate demeanor category. Rodriguez’ lowest marks were for the fair and impartial category, with 22% of attorneys surveyed disagreeing and 22% of resource staff also disagreeing with this category.
The JPEC website notes that not all judges stand for retention in every election and that supreme court justices and N.M. court of appeals judges stand for retention when their staggered terms expire. To see the commission’s full evaluations, visit nmjpec.org.