Hart, Smith recommended to serve as interim judge in county

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After an hour and a half of questioning three applicants to fill a judicial vacancy in district court, two names will be sent to the governor for consideration.

Attorneys Walter Hart III and Allen Smith, both of Los Lunas, were recommended Monday by the judicial nominating commission for the vacancy in the 13th Judicial District Court. The third applicant, Paul Trujillo, was the only attorney who was not selected.

Walter Hart III Recommended

Gov. Susana Martinez has 30 days to appoint a new judge to replace the Honorable William Sanchez, who officially retired from the bench last month. He has since been working as a part-time, temporary judge until the governor appoints his replacement.

The judge who is appointed will fill the vacancy in the family court division until voters elect a new judge to the bench in November. Both Smith and Trujillo are running for the Republican nomination in the June primary election, while Hart and Los Lunas attorney Joshua Sanchez, are running for the Democratic Party nod.

Hart, 55, 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.

“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 to the commission.

“I’m just grateful that they considered my capabilities and found me worthy to be referred to the governor for appointment,” Hart said after the commissioners announced their decision.

Smith, 55, 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.

Allen Smith Recommended

In his application, Smith said he applied for the position “because I can make a difference in peoples’ lives … 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.”

After the commission’s decision, Smith said, “I’m honored to be selected by the judicial nominating commission to be one of the candidates that the governor can choose from.”

The judicial nomination commission was 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.