Seven attorneys vie for 13th Judicial Court judgeship; interviews Monday

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Seven attorneys have submitted their applications to the judicial selection nominating commission for the judicial vacancy due to the pending retirement of District Court Judge Violet Otero, who will step down from the bench on June 21.

The applicants will go before the commission on the morning of Monday, June 9, where they will be interviewed. After evaluating all applicants, the commission will then send their recommendation to the governor for her consideration.

The governor's selection will preside over the Division VI District Court in Valencia County until the general election in November. Because of the timing of the selection, both the Republican and Democrat parties will nominate a candidate, who will appear on November's ballot.

The applicants include:

Bryan McKay, 40, of Los Lunas, is the senior trial attorney with the 13th Judicial District Attorney's Office. He received his juris doctorate from the University of Baltimore Law School and was admitted into the State Bar of New Mexico in 1998.

Before coming to Valencia County, McKay was a prosecutor with the Second Judicial District Attorney's Office in Albuquerque and with the Ninth Judicial District Attorney's Office in Clovis.

When asked on the application about his reasons for applying for the position, McKay wrote, "Having been a trial attorney for nearly 16 years, I understand the importance of a judge who controls the courtroom but does so with fairness and respect to all parties. I understand that all parties should know and expect that they will be treated equally and that the rules will be followed.

"Furthermore, I believe that I have the right temperament and that I have shown the ability to work with all parties to attempt to ensure that the judicial system operates as smoothly and as quickly as possible while providing the parties all the protections they are entitled."

Cynthia Mercer, 45, of Peralta, earned her juris doctorate from the University of Nebraska Lincoln. She was admitted into the State Bar of New Mexico in 1997.

Mercer has been an attorney with the law offices of Michael S. Sanchez since 1997, where she is a general practitioner with an emphasis in criminal defense and domestic relations law. According to her application, she has handled more than 10,000 cases.

"I am applying for this judicial position because I care about the people who come into contact with our legal system. Each individual who comes into the courtroom has the right to expect that their experience with the legal system is one of respect, fairness, equality and justice according to the law," Mercer wrote in her application.

"Up to this point, I have dedicated my legal career to working with and for the citizens as a legal representative, fighting for my client's rights. I see this judicial position as an opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills that I have obtained through my litigation experience and legal practice toward further helping my community by ensuring that these important principles are applied to them in the courtroom as a judge …"

Geoffrey Nims, 52, of Los Lunas, is the staff attorney for the 13th Judicial District Court in Los Lunas. He received his juris doctorate from the University of Michigan and was admitted into the State Bar of New Mexico in 2006.

He was an assistant district attorney with the 13th Judicial District Attorney's Office in Valencia County as well as with the District Attorney's office in Montrose, Colo. Before become a prosecutor, Nims worked for several law firms and was a teacher in Colorado.

"I am applying to be district court judge because … (I am) ready to do a good job in an important position. District court judges weigh evidence, apply the law, and administer justice, insofar as justice can be done in an imperfect world. They must do this over and over, consistently and fairly. In so doing they touch the lives of all who come before them. That's a big responsibility. I welcome that responsibility and would handle it well."

Pedro Rael, 67, of Los Lunas, received his juris doctorate from the University of Iowa Law School. He served as a Valencia County Commissioner from 2007-2010.

Rael has been in private practice as a civil litigator since being admitted into the State Bar of New Mexico in 1972. He writes in his application that he has tried hundreds of cases, including personal injury and criminal law.

"I understand the plight of litigants and am able to explain to them quite simply what their case is about, chances of success, the cost of pursuing the matter, and whether it should be pursued at all; as a judge, understanding the position of both sides and what they are suffering and grinding through would be understood in the practical and legal sense," Rael writes in is application. "The courtroom, jury instructions, evidence, trial tactics, finding and conclusions, and a proper record are 'old hat' to me."

Keith Rinaldi, 41, of Rio Rancho, earned his juris doctorate from UNM. He also applied for the new judgeship created by the Legislature in the 13th Judicial District Court in Rio Rancho.

He's worked as a public defender in Albuquerque and Hobbs, and as an assistant district attorney in the 13th Judicial District Attorney's Office.

He has tried about 60 cases to a jury and 150 bench trials and admitted to the State Bar of New Mexico in 1999.

"Over my 15-year career, I have acquired substantial and varied experience as a trial attorney in criminal law, defending as well as prosecuting, handling felony, misdemeanor and juvenile cases, and practicing criminal law in three different judicial districts, with non-criminal experience in the Seventh Judicial District," Rinaldi writes in his application. "This experience has developed my writing and speaking abilities, impartiality and decisiveness and has prepared me to bring knowledge, understanding and professionalism to the bench."

R. Lar Thomas, 55, of Bosque Farms, earned his juris doctorate from the Mississippi College School of Law and was admitted into the State Bar of New Mexico in 1989.

Thomas was elected municipal judge in Bosque Farms in 2012 and is a private practice attorney.

As for the reasons why he applied for the position, Thomas, in part, writes, "The reasons are for me to bring the principles of honesty, courtesy, respect and discipline to the bench. My history as litigator and judge give me the experience and knowledge required for this position as well. As a judge, it is my responsibility to recognize that my decisions will have a long-lasting impact on not only those who appear before me, but also the community as a whole."

Gerard Treich Jr., 51, of Belen, earned his juris doctorate from the UNM School of Law in 1988, the same year he was admitted into the State Bar of New Mexico.

Treich is a senior trial attorney for the Second Judicial District Attorney's Office in Albuquerque and has served as an assistant district attorney in Valencia County. He has also been a private practice attorney.

"I believe that self-honesty, integrity, moral conscience and impartiality are vital to the role of a judge," he writes in his application. "My career has shaped me to this point; imprinted me with those values. It is time to take the next natural step in my personal and professional growth to become a judge and employ those values to better serve the community."


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