Meet the Candidates

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Amanda Sanchez Villalobos (I)

Amanda Sanchez Villalobos (I)

Age: 40

Occupation: District Court Judge, District 13, Division 4 (Cibola County)

Education: Bachelor of Arts in criminology and political science (UNM 2002); Juris Doctor (UNM School of Law, 2005)

Previous elected political offices: None

Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a DWI or a felony in New Mexico or in another state? “No.”

1. Describe your qualifications and experience for this office, and explain your reasons for running. How would you be an asset?

“I have been a general jurisdiction judge for 15 months. Previously, I prosecuted criminal cases in district, metropolitan, magistrate and municipal courts; practiced civil law at the Rodey Law Firm (business and litigation); and worked on criminal and civil appeals at the New Mexico Supreme Court and New Mexico Court of Appeals.”

2. To what extent have you practiced in the area of criminal law? Family law? Complex civil litigation?

“I preside over criminal law, family law and complex civil litigation cases. Previously, I prosecuted criminal cases as an assistant district attorney, and while in law school, worked on complex civil litigation cases at civil law firms; and worked on appeals involving criminal law, family law, and complex civil litigation.”

3. How would you prepare yourself to handle cases involving unfamiliar areas of the law?

“I prepare for cases by researching the applicable law, including federal and state constitutions, statutes, rules, regulations and case law. Laws change, so it is critical to stay current on the law in all cases. Additionally, I attend various legal conferences and discuss legal updates with colleagues.”

4. Do judges have an obligation to improve public understanding of the courts? If so, how should they carry out that obligation?

“Judges have an obligation to improve public understanding of the courts by making clear rulings based on the facts and law presented to them. Judges should set forth the basis of their rulings, including sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law.”

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James A. Noel (I)

James A. Noel (I)

Age: 58

Occupation: District Court Judge

Education: BA political science and anthropology, Indiana University; MBA, Indiana University; JD, University of New Mexico School of Law

Previous elected political offices: None

Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a DWI or a felony in New Mexico or in another state? “No.”

1. Describe your qualifications and experience for this office, and explain your reasons for running. How would you be an asset?

“I have practiced law for 20 years in a wide range of positions, including civil litigation, estate planning and probate. I served as ED and general counsel for the Judicial Standards Commission, general counsel for the State Auditor’s Office. My broad experience uniquely qualifies me for a position on the bench.”

2. To what extent have you practiced in the area of criminal law? Family law? Complex civil litigation?

“I was division director for two criminal divisions within the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office. As CEO for the Second Judicial District Court, I worked with the Family Court bench on many matters that came before them. My civil practice in personal injury included work on multi-state class action litigation.”

3. How would you prepare yourself to handle cases involving unfamiliar areas of the law?

“Study the applicable case law, statutes, and court rules.”

4. Do judges have an obligation to improve public understanding of the courts? If so, how should they carry out that obligation?

“Yes. Through public outreach and interaction with the members of the public who may appear before me as litigants. In addition, I currently serve on several committees of the Supreme Court, including two that focus on public access to the justice system.”

(13th Judicial District Court Division 7 Judge Chris G. Perez (Democrat), who is running unopposed, did not answer the questionnaire.)

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George P. Eichwald

George P. Eichwald

Age: 67

Occupation: District Court Judge

Education: B.S., M.A., J.D.

Previous elected political offices: District Court Judge

Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a DWI or a felony in New Mexico or in another state? “No.”

1. Describe your qualifications and experience for this office, and explain your reasons for running. How would you be an asset?

“ I completed 16 years as district court judge. I serve as the chief judge for the district. I participated in or presided over 400 jury trials. I am seeking retention to continue ensuring that everyone receives the justice they deserve. Experience and knowledge of the district are my biggest assets.

2. To what extent have you practiced in the area of criminal law? Family law? Complex civil litigation?

“I have over 35 years of experience in the areas of family and criminal law. Over the last 16 years, as a judge, I have become proficient in the handling of complex litigation cases, which often take weeks to try either to the bench or a jury.”

3. How would you prepare yourself to handle cases involving unfamiliar areas of the law?

“Certain areas of the law are consistent for every case, such as the rules of evidence. Unfamiliar areas of the law require a judge to extensively study that area. It also requires the time commitment to truly understand that area.”

4. Do judges have an obligation to improve public understanding of the courts? If so, how should they carry out that obligation?

“A judge should help improve public understanding of the courts. I firmly believe this begins with court staff being courteous and helpful to those who wish to avail themselves of the courts. The courts have established websites which assist people navigate the court system.”

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Cindy Mercer

Cindy Mercer

Age: 51

Occupation: District Court Judge

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, 1991, NMSU; Bachelor of Criminal Justice, 1991, NMSU; Juris Doctorate Degree, 1997, University of Nebraska

Previous elected political offices: None

Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a DWI or a felony in New Mexico or in another state? “No.”

1. Describe your qualifications and experience for this office, and explain your reasons for running. How would you be an asset?

“I have been serving as a district court judge in this district for the past six years. I have a total of 23 years of legal experience. I believe I am an asset to the bench based upon my work ethic and my sincere commitment to making good decisions.”

2. To what extent have you practiced in the area of criminal law? Family law? Complex civil litigation?

“During my 18 years in private practice as an attorney, I handled primarily criminal defense and family law cases. As a district court judge, my case assignments include a wide range of both criminal and civil cases.”

3. How would you prepare yourself to handle cases involving unfamiliar areas of the law?

“I prepare myself in two ways. First, I study the statutes, rules and case law relevant to that particular area for a general overview. Second, I study the motions, briefs and law cited by the attorneys or litigants to pinpoint the areas that are significant for a particular case.”

4. Do judges have an obligation to improve public understanding of the courts? If so, how should they carry out that obligation?

“It is extremely important for the public to have a good understanding of the courts in order to foster community confidence in the administration of the law and justice. Public forums are one way that judges can do outreach to the community to educate and to help dispel misconceptions.”

(The following 13th Judicial District Court judges up for retention  did not answer the questionnaire: James Lawrence Sanchez, Division 1; Allen Smith, Division 3, and Cheryl Johnston, Division 8. They are all Republicans.)

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