Three attorneys submit applications for judgeship; interviews next week

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The judicial nominating commission will interview three local attorneys who have applied to fill the judicial vacancy in the 13th Judicial District Court, Division III, due to the retirement of William Sanchez.

The commission will meet at 9 a.m., Monday, March 17, at the Valencia County Courthouse, and will interview Walter M. Hart III, Allen R. Smith and Paul E. Trujillo. The meeting is open to the public, and those wanting to make a public comment are asked to be present at the beginning of the meeting.

The attorney chosen for the position will serve in the family court division until a new judge is elected in November. All three applicants, as well as Democrat Joshua J. Sanchez, are running for their party's nomination in the primary election.

Hart, 55, of Los Lunas, a Democrat, works in the litigation division at the New Mexico Attorney General's office and graduated in 1984 with a Juris Doctor from Louisiana State University Law School. From March 2008 to September 2012, Hart was a sole practitioner and contract attorney in Los Lunas.

He also worked in the Senior Citizens' Law Office, as a children's court attorney with CYFD and was an attorney for Sandoval County.

According to his application, Hart said he's been the principal attorney in at least five jury trial cases and has participated, with shared responsibility, in at least another five jury trial cases. None of these trials, all of which have been civil cases, have occurred within the last 10 years. He has also tried between 200 and 300 cases without a jury, none of which have been criminal cases.

"As a judge, I would apply the law with equality and impartiality to achieve the best justice possible under the law," Hart wrote in his application.

Smith, 55, of Los Lunas, a Republican, is an attorney and partner with the Smith & Payne, P.C. law firm in Los Lunas. He graduated with a Juris Doctor in 1988 from the University of New Mexico School of Law.

He was a deputy district attorney for the Sixth Judicial District Attorney's office in Silver City from 1995 to 2005, and was in private practice from 1986 to 1995.

Smith, in his application, said he's tried two civil jury trails, none within the last two years, but has tried more than 25 criminal jury trials, but also none within the last two years.

He said in the 10 years he served as a criminal prosecutor, he appeared before the magistrate court weekly to dispose of dockets of up to 14 cases per day.

"I am applying for this judicial position because I can make a difference in peoples' lives," Smith wrote in his application. "… It is my experience that good judges know how to listen so that all parties and lawyers know that they have been heard. I believe I possess that ability."

Paul Trujillo, 61, of Jarales, a Republican, is a private attorney and graduated from the UNM School of Law with a Juris Doctor in 1996.

He is a former Valencia County commissioner, Belen Board of Education member and a UNM-Valencia Campus Advisory Board member.

Before becoming an attorney, Trujillo worked as an instructor with CNM, UNM-VC, Bernalillo, Belen and Los Lunas high schools.

According to his application, Trujillo said he currently has a case scheduled to go to trial, but has no other cases that have been before a jury. He said he has tried three civil cases without a jury.

"The judicial position will allow me to make full use of my experience and education in a way that will benefit the public," Trujillo wrote in his application.

After the interviews on Monday, the commission will announce its nominations, which will be sent to Gov. Susana Martinez for her consideration. The person chosen will sit on the bench until November's General Election.

The nomination commission is comprised of David Herring, the dean of UNM School of Law, Supreme Court Justice Richard Bosson, Court of Appeals Judge Michael Vigil, Chief District Judge Louis McDonald, the governor's appointees, attorney Greg Gaudette and state Rep. Vicki Perea; the speaker of the house's appointees, attorney John Duran, and retired educator Jim Danner; the Senate president's appointees, attorney Jane Rocha de Gandera and Eve Romero; the state bar's appointees, attorneys Cheryl Hein Johnston, Anthony Williams, Laurel Carrier Feilmeier, Peter Ortega and Matthew Spangler.


-- Email the author at cgarcia@news-bulletin.com.