New Mexico Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — September 14, 2018
2018 Marks 11th Official Election in Which Organization Has Released Evaluations to Voters
ALBUQUERQUE — The New Mexico Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission (NMJPEC) today released its recommendations to voters on one New Mexico Court of Appeals judge and 18 Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court judges standing for retention in the upcoming election. Under state law, these judges must receive at least 57 percent voter approval to remain on the bench.
Denise Torres, chair of NMJPEC, said the evaluation process this year included surveys among individuals who had contact with the judges, courtroom statistics, some courtroom observations and an interview with each judge standing for retention.
"This year, we issued four 'do not retain' recommendations for metropolitan court judges, including some judges who have been on the bench for a number of years, due to continuing low scores among surveyed populations, and, in some cases, no acknowledgement that there was a need for improvement in their performance," Torres said.
Former District Judge James Hall, vice chair of NMJPEC added, —We continue to believe the vast majority of judges strive to consistently improve their overall performance. Some judges this year had made improvements since our midterm evaluations, and others who have identified areas of weakness committed to working to improve in those areas." Midterm evaluations, which are not released to the public, are held midway through a judge’s term on the bench to help him or her assess performance and develop a plan, if needed, to address any area of weakness.
This year, NMJPEC’s recommendations to voters statewide are:
Retain Honorable J. Miles Hanisee, New Mexico Court of Appeals
The Commission's recommendations to voters in Bernalillo County regarding Metropolitan Court Judges are:
Retain Judges Henry A. Alaniz, Rosie Lazcano Allred, Vidalia G. Chavez, Rosemary Cosgrove-Aguilar, Maria I. Dominguez, Sandra Engel, Yvette K. Gonzales, Jill M. Martinez, Daniel E. Ramczyk, Christene Eve Rodriguez, Frank A. Sedillo, Renee Torres, Victor E. Valdez, and Courtney Bryn Weaks.
Do Not Retain Judges Edward L. Benavidez, Michelle Castillo Dowler, Kenny C. Montoya, and Linda S. Rogers.
NMJPEC surveys individuals who come in contact with the judge, including other judges, attorneys, court staff, and resource staff (such as members of law enforcement, probation, parole officers and interpreters) for their evaluations in four main areas:
1) Legal ability;
3) Communication skills; and
4) Preparation, attentiveness, temperament and control over proceedings.
An independent research firm distributes the surveys, then tabulates and reports them to NMJPEC. The Commission also reviews statistics from the Administrative Office of the Courts for each individual judge including caseloads, excusals and the time it takes to get cases resolved. In some circumstances, JPEC occasionally sends court observers to individual courts to personally observe and comment on the judge’s actions in court. NMJPEC also meets one-on-one with each judge being evaluated to review the survey results as well as to review his or her self-assessment of performance. The evaluations include narrative, table and bar graph formats as well as information on the judge’s experience and education.
NMJPEC has posted evaluations in English and Spanish on its website, www.nmjpec.org. Individuals can download summary voter’s guides or call 1-800-687-3417 to request a printed guide by mail.
Absentee voting begins Tuesday, Oct. 9; early voting is scheduled from Saturday, Oct. 20 through Saturday, Nov. 3; and Election Day in-person voting is from 7 a.m.-7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 6. Results will be posted on www.nmjpec.org as soon as possible following the election.
"We encourage every voter to vote in all elections for which they are eligible – including the judicial retention elections. These elections are at the bottom of the ballot, so please take the time to vote, go all the way through the ballot, and make your voice heard regarding the retention of these judges," Torres concluded.
JPEC was established by the Supreme Court of New Mexico to improve the performance of New Mexico’s judges and provide useful, credible information to New Mexico voters on all judges standing for retention during elections.
The nonpartisan volunteer Commission has 15 members, including seven lawyers and eight non-lawyers, who are appointed to staggered terms by the Supreme Court of New Mexico. Members are appointed to represent different professions, backgrounds and geographical areas of the state.