This year, you'll find six contested races for judgeships in the Second Judicial District on your ballot and four contested races for Metro Court. And you probably know little or nothing about any of the candidates. Well relax. We have a simple solution for you to consider. Each race pits a sitting judge against a challenger. We don't care what the party affiliation is of any of these candidates, because we are endorsing all the incumbents.
Here's why. Each of these incumbent judges was appointed to the bench after being screened by a 20-member bipartisan judicial merit selection committee. Each judge was grilled on their qualifications by 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans before being recommended for appointment by the governor. Only after they passed this screening process could the governor legally appoint them to the bench. The majority of these judges were appointed by Bill Richardson, while one was appointed by Gary Johnson.
The law behind the judicial selection process was passed as a constitutional amendment in 1988 and supported by then-Gov. Garry Carruthers (R) and the Legislature, and backed by public support. Unfortunately, after being appointed by the governor, judges still must run in a partisan election once. If they win, they only have to run for retention thereafter. We believe subjecting judges to partisan elections is foolish and the Legislature should just do away with the process. It's ridiculous that judges must campaign for office and thereby hold fundraisers, yet are prohibited by law to know the identity of their campaign donors. During the campaign, both sides are forbidden from discussing any political issues, which would violate the oath of judicial imapartiality. So what's the point?
State lawmakers should install only a retention system. At the very least, the Legislature should require judicial races to be publicly funded. It's absurd to think judges wouldn't know the names of their donors when the information is printed in the newspaper and public record on the Internet.
True, Gov. Richardson has appointed the majority of incumbents on the ballot, but that's his job. Just like it was Gary Johnson's job when he was governor. If you don't like their choices, take it up with them. Or, vote against retaining the judge you don't like. But remember, neither governor could choose from any list other than the one recommended by the bipartisan judicial merit board.
We believe all judges should be independent and not subjected to partisan politics in any way. Judges are servants of the people. They should be fair, prepared, organized, knowledgeable, treat citizens with respect, and above all be impartial to politics. It's the judicial selection committee's job to make this determination. We trust that they have done an adequate job. Alibi endorses all incumbent judges running in partisan races.
Metro Court: Victor Valdez (D), Christina Jaramillo (R), Loretta Lopez (D), Daniel Ramczyk (D)
District Court: Marie Baca (D), Linda Vanzi (D), John Romero (D), Valerie Huling (D), Nan Nash (D).
(Note: We are with withholding endorsement in the Division 14 District Court race between incumbent Democrat Michael Kavanaugh and Republican Sharon Walton. Both candidates have served as Metro Court judges and therefore both have passed review by the judicial selection committee.)
Likewise, based on the recommendation of the New Mexico Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission (www.nmjpec.org), the Alibi recommends retention for State Supreme Court Justice Richard Bosson and State Court of Appeals Justice Roderick Kennedy.