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The Second Judicial District Court Pro Bono Committee and the Volunteer Attorney Program will host a Law-La-Palooza free legal fair of the year on Thursday, May 2, 2019.  The event will take place at the Alamosa Community Center, 6900 Gonzales Rd., SW in Albuquerque, 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM.  

These free legal fairs are designed to help low-income people and families facing a wide range of legal issues, including divorce, custody, bankruptcy, contracts, landlord/tenant, creditor/debtor, child support, kinship/guardianship, wills, probates, personal injury, powers of attorney, public benefits, unemployment, immigration, SSI/SSDI, IRS tax issues foreclosure, and name changes. 

The District Court’s Pro-Bono Committee—currently chaired by Judge Jane C. Levy—has been hosting Law-La-Paloozas each year since 2010. Over that time, roughly 8,000 individuals—about 1,000 each year—have gotten help with their legal problems at these events. 

“The Law-La-Palooza is a wonderful resource for our community,” Judge Levy said. “Lawyers and court staff volunteer their time and our community is able to get meaningful help and direction with their legal issues.”  

Law-La-Palooza participants can speak with an attorney or legal expert about the legal issues they are facing.  Volunteers include attorneys, judges, court staff, and law students.  Interpreters and bilingual attorneys will be on site.  Help is offered on a first-come, first-served basis. 

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In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, Plato describes a group of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall from objects passing in front of a fire behind them, these shadows are the prisoners’ reality. One day the prisoners manage to break out of their shackles and discover the true reality around them. Before my externship  at the Second Judicial District Court (SJDC), my view of the law and the legal profession was like that of the prisoners, merely shadows of the true reality. Throughout my externship at the SJDC, I became “unshackled” and my understanding of what the law truly was began to take form. 

Whether it was discussing the “political thicket” in Baker v. Carr with the Court Executive Officer, analyzing bills in the current legislative session for the Court’s General Counsel, or witnessing closing arguments in high-profile cases, my experience at the SJDC was invaluable. Although in the classroom students are taught the law and provided examples on how it would apply, nothing compares to being fully immersed in one of the busiest district courts in the state. From employment law to the rules of evidence, I was able to see real world (insert cave pun here) application of previously bewildering legal concepts. Additionally, this judicial externship provided me with a complete rotation of the various divisions of the Court (Family, Civil, Criminal, and Children’s Court), an experience I believe every law student should have. I was given an opportunity to expand my love for constitutional and employment law, while also discovering a new love for criminal and family law. 

Although I gained a plethora of knowledge on the law in the various divisions, I believe the greatest gift this externship gave me was the knowledge of the legal profession and how to treat others in the legal community. The way the SJDC not only treats its staff, but the public at large, is nothing short of extraordinary. Everyone at the Court has the best interests of the community at heart, providing a perfect reminder of why I decided to pursue my dream of becoming an attorney in the first place, to help others. With this new outlook on life and the law, I am now prepared to explore this amazing new world!

Richard Azar served his judicial externship in the Second Judicial District Court during the Spring Semester of 2019. He will start his third year of UNM Law School in the fall. 

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Thirty-six family court cases were fully resolved during the Second Judicial District Court’s recent Peter H. Johnstone Pro Se/Pro Bono Mediation Day.
That number represents 75% of the total cases considered that day. The parties reached partial settlements in five additional cases, pushing the event’s overall success rate to 85%.  
The Second District Court hosts Peter Johnstone day each year to offer self-represented litigants a chance to work through family law issues free of charge with a mediator’s assistance. Peter H. Johnstone, a family law attorney in Albuquerque, was one of the early organizers, and the event was named in his honor following his death in 2013.
There are two requirements for parties wishing to participate in a Peter H. Johnstone Pro Se/Pro Bono Mediation event:
      • Neither party can be represented by an attorney
      • Cases must be referred by the Family Court. 
This year, the court referred 48 cases. Seventy-one attorneys and 16 University of New Mexico law students volunteered to mediate the cases. 
"Peter H. Johnstone Day is a win-win for everyone involved,” said Aja Brooks, director of the Second District Court’s Center for Self-Help and Dispute Resolution. “The parties receive free facilitation services from top-notch attorneys, and by the end of the day, most reach some sort of agreement with regards to their family law issue. The attorneys get the satisfaction of giving back; most of them joined the practice of law to help people, and that is exactly what they get to do on Peter Johnstone Day."

A delegation from Afghanistan—including a prosecutor and a police officer—visited the Second Judicial District Court in April as part of a trip to learn how U.S. courts handle domestic violence cases.

The group—which also visited courts in Baltimore, Cincinnati and Detroit—hopes to find best practices that they can apply  in Afghanistan’s judicial system. Global Ties ABQ, a non-profit organization the works to foster ongoing relationships between Albuquerque residents and international visitors, sponsored the Albuquerque trip. 

At the Second Judicial District Court, the Afghan delegation observed a domestic violence hearing and then shared their impressions with the hearing officer, Rosemary Traub, and Family Court Presiding Judge Debra Ramirez over lunch.

Interpreters facilitated the conversation. The prosecutor, Abdul Haq Anabia, said having a judge or hearing officer render a decision in a domestic violence case is a stark contrast from the process in Afghanistan, where all domestic violence such cases are resolved through mediation. 

Judge Ramirez said culture plays a role in the different manners in which courts handle domestic violence cases in the U.S. versus Afghanistan.

“In Afghanistan, the focus is always on reuniting the family,” Judge Ramirez said. “In the U.S., even though we like to see families work out their differences and remain together, there are times when we consider it appropriate to draw a line and say reunification is not possible—and that line is when violence is occurring.”

Despite the differing approaches, both the Afghanis and their American counterparts agreed their overriding goal is to decrease incidents of domestic violence.  Haq Anabia said the mediation process in Afghanistan offers families support to help curb violence.

“Overall, we are trying to decrease violence against women in Afghanistan,” said Gita Qaderi, a female police officer in Kabul.

Qaderi also expressed appreciation for the number of programs in the U.S. that promote awareness of domestic violence and offer services and resources for survivors. “We need to have more programs that build awareness,” she said. “I am hoping to go back and focus on such programs.” 


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Self-represented parties working through family law issues such as divorce, child custody and timesharing have a chance to settle their cases free of charge at the Second Judicial District Court’s Peter H. Johnstone Pro Se/Pro Bono Mediation Day.

On Friday, April 12, 2019, roughly 65 to 70 family law attorneys will be at the Second District Courthouse serving as volunteer mediators for parties who want to resolve their differences through negotiation rather than litigation.

The Second District Court has been hosting the Pro Bono Family Law Mediation Day for several years. Peter H. Johnstone, a family law attorney in Albuquerque, was one of the early organizers, and the event was named in his honor following his death in 2013.

Meredith Johnstone, Peter’s daughter who also is a family law attorney, said this day represents two of her father’s firm beliefs:

      • The legal profession should always strive ensure that people with limited financial resources have access to the system; and,
      • Attorneys should, as much as possible, work in collaborative fashion to resolve cases rather than in engage in drawn-out, expensive litigation.


“My dad was very much a supporter of Pro Bono services, and as I worked with and learned from him, he made sure that I supported those types of services as well,” Meredith Johnstone said. “He also believed that having attorneys work in collegial fashion actually improved the level of service they provided to clients. That is why I love this day so much. It brings the family law community together around those two ideas.”

On average, 80% of the parties who participate in Peter Johnstone Day reach a full settlement of their cases by the end of the mediation session. Typically, an additional 10% to 15% reach at least a partial settlement.

“It’s always better—especially when children are involved—for parents to resolve issues on their own terms, rather than have solutions forced on them by the court,” said Judge Debra Ramirez, Presiding Judge of Family Court. “We are fortunate to have attorneys in our community who are willing to help people who can’t afford legal representation find creative ways to resolve their cases.”

There two requirements for parties wishing to participate in a Peter H. Johnstone Pro Se/Pro Bono Mediation event:

        • Neither party can be represented by an attorney.
        • Cases must be referred by the Family Court.

Parties can be referred to the event by submitting a request to the judge presiding over a current case, or by making the request when opening a new case. The court’s Center for Self Help and Dispute Resolution can provide information for how to submit those requests for future Peter Johnstone Day events.

The Center for Self Help and Dispute Resolution is located on the first floor of the Second Judicial District Courthouse at 400 Lomas Blvd., NW, in Albuquerque. The center is open 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM Monday through Friday.

The Center for Self Help and Dispute Resolution can be reached by telephone at 505-841-6702.

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Assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) is a civil court ordered program of delivering community-based treatment to adults with serious mental illness who are found by a judge, in consideration of prior incarcerations or hospitalizations, to be unlikely to adhere to prescribed treatment on a voluntary basis. It is a 2-way commitment that requires treatment providers to serve individuals at the same time it commits individuals to adhere to their treatment plans. Through the ritual of court hearings and the symbolic weight of a judge's order, AOT seeks to leverage a "black robe effect," motivating the individual to regard treatment adherence as a legal obligation.

Funded by a four-year grant with the Substance and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the City of Albuquerque’s AOT Program will serve a maximum of 60 individuals in the first year. Referrals for this program will primarily be from inpatient hospital facilities (Petitioner), such as the University of New Mexico’s Psychiatric Center and Kaseman Hospital. This program provides psychiatric and intensive comprehensive case management services, as well as monthly sessions with a judge to individuals with serious mental illness (Respondents) ordered for treatment by the Second Judicial District Court. The AOT case manager monitors the participant’s progress and compliance with the treatment plan in accordance with the court order. The AOT case manager reports to the court on the client’s condition and attends all court staffings and hearings.

The City of Albuquerque (City), through the Department of Family and Community Services, invites attorneys to submit letters of interest/proposals in accordance with specifications found at to establish a pool of qualified attorneys available to provide cost-effective, competent representation in the Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) Program in the Second Judicial District consisting of Bernalillo County. The City is seeking attorneys to provide legal representation of Petitioners and Respondents as independent contractors. The City will select a pool of attorneys whose proposals indicate that they meet all of the minimum qualifications and requirements contained within the Request. All services will be performed in conjunction and in association with the AOT Program. Cases will be assigned to Respondent’s counsel following the filing of a petition in the Second Judicial District Court, for those clients requesting representation. Offerers must be in good standing to practice law by the New Mexico Supreme Court, and an active member of the Bar. Proposals submitted pursuant to this Request will be accepted by the City on an ongoing basis until further notice in order to maintain a current listing of pre-qualified attorneys available to perform services for the AOT Program. The City will endeavor to review each proposal and respond to the Offeror within thirty (30) days of receipt of the proposal. A proposer who meets all of the City’s minimum qualification and requirements will be added to the pool of attorneys available for the assignment of work. Please contact Ellen Braden, Division Manager, Behavioral Health and Wellness with questions at (505) 768-2788 or

REAL ID Free Legal Fair Coming to Albuquerque Convention Center, Saturday, March 23.
A host of professionals—from attorneys and judges to representatives from the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division and the Bureau of Vital Records—will be at the Albuquerque Convention Center on Saturday, March 23, 2019 to help people navigate the REAL ID process.
This service is free of charge, courtesy of the Second Judicial District Court’s Pro Bono Committee, the New Mexico Legal Aid Volunteer Attorney Program and the City of Albuquerque.
By October 1, 2020, anyone wishing to board an aircraft or enter a federal facility where an ID is required must have a driver’s license or ID card that complies with provisions of the Federal REAL ID Act of 2005. Obtaining a REAL ID requires presenting a specific set of documents verifying one’s identity. 
The REAL ID Legal Fair will run from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM in West Building of the Albuquerque Convention Center, directly across from Civic Plaza.  Free parking is available in the surface lot on the corner of Roma and 3rd Street. 
Anyone seeking help should bring the appropriate identification documents.
A list of acceptable documents is available on the Motor Vehicle Division’s website
“We have now hosted multiple REAL ID fairs and many members of our community have been provided assistance complying with REAL ID but it is clear that there are many more people that can benefit from another REAL ID fair,” said Jane Levy, a Second Judicial District Court Judge, and Chair of the Pro Bono Committee. “We are grateful for all of the volunteers—the attorneys and other professionals who donate their time and expertise to this cause.  I also want to commend the MVD and New Mexico Vital Records and the City of Albuquerque for lending their support. ” 
The biggest challenge for most people seeking a REAL ID is ensuring that all required documents meet certain specifications, such as all listing names exactly the same way.  In some cases, applicants have had to go through the process of legally changing their names or having a new birth certificate issued. Experts at the REAL ID Legal Fair can help determine if any of those steps are necessary. They also will be able to provide assistance in completing those steps. 
The professionals at the fair will provide the following services:
Identify the documents needed for each individual
Review documents brought to the Fair to ensure they meet REAL ID requirements
Inform individuals if they need additional documents 
Assist in filling out REAL ID application forms
Provide referrals for legal representation in court, if it is required.  
For individuals who have all of the required documents, New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division staff will be able to issue REAL IDs on the spot. Others should leave the fair with a clear understanding of what steps they need to take to obtain a REAL ID within a reasonable amount of time.

More than 3,600 times last year alone, someone involved in a Second Judicial District Court proceeding needed spoken words or written text interpreted from English into their native language.  Each time, Court Interpreter Supervisor Rosa Lopez-Gaston was responsible for making sure it happened.

Her near-perfect record of getting interpreters to the right places at the right time—while also handling interpreting duties of her own—helped Rosa win the Second Judicial District Court’s 2018 Distinguished Performance Award. 

Rosa is a perfect fit for her job. She is a native Spanish-speaker with a bachelor’s degree in Latin American history and master’s in International Relations. She was working at the University of New Mexico when she decided to take the exam to become a certified interpreter. 

She started as a freelance interpreter in district court in 2001, and immediately took to the job. 

“I loved having a job that helps people,” she said. “I also found the court system to be extremely interesting.”

Rosa became a part-time court employee in 2003. She was named full-time Supervisor of Court Interpreter Services in 2005. Over that time, the number of languages she has to find interpreters for has grown to more than 30—ranging from sign language to Navajo, Russian and Arabic.

It can be a challenge at times because the number of interpreters is limited, and there are other courts and agencies also vying for their services. Still, Rosa has never failed to meet the challenge. She modestly gives the credit to others. “I have a great team of freelancers who are extremely flexible and always willing to help,” she said.

James Noel, the Second District Court’s Executive Officer, recognizes the vital role Rosa has at the Second Judicial District Court. “Rosa’s job is not easy, but it is essential,” he said. “This court would be at a complete standstill without Rosa and her selfless dedication to serving the court and the community.”


The Second Judicial District Court collaborated with the City of Albuquerque to secure funding for a specialty court in which the University of New Mexico’s Psychiatric Center (“UPC”) can request court-appointed outpatient treatment and support for individuals with a serious mental illness.
The funding for this new Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) court is a federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.  
A 2016 state law allows municipalities and counties to use the civil court system to supervise care for people with a serious mental illness who meet specific legal criteria, which include a history of hospitalization, incarceration or violence, and difficulty maintaining their treatment. The goal of AOT is to ensure participants maintain treatment, thereby reducing the incidence and duration of psychiatric hospitalization, homelessness, incarcerations, and interactions with law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

The specialty court embraces the principles of therapeutic jurisprudence as a means of best ensuring the dignity of the participants. “For now, the program will focus on patients who are leaving the hospital after an involuntary commitment,” said District Judge Beatrice Brickhouse, who is the primary SJDC judge involved in AOT. “In addition to UPC, we plan to expand to other inpatient facilities, such as Lovelace and Kaseman Presbyterian hospitals, as well as community referrals, such as family members.” 

“The Second Judicial District Court and its partners will continue to work closely with providers, disability rights advocates, family members, and consumers to ensure AOT is effective, fair, and respectful to all involved,” said Chief Judge Stan Whitaker.
Program participants will collaborate with service providers to develop individualized treatment plans and receive 24-hour access to services and support. Specialized assertive community treatment teams or intensive case management would then follow up to check on participants, link them with services, and monitor the court-ordered treatment. “We are going to add a level of intensity to try to reduce mental illness crises and repeated hospitalizations,” said Denise Lin, M.D., Medical Director of Inpatient Services at UPC.  Services may include mental health treatment, medication, substance abuse counseling, benefits assistance and other resources such as supportive housing, vocational rehabilitation, and family member support.
“The Court’s AOT program will implement evidence-based practices that will focus on early intervention to improve outcomes for individuals with critical mental health issues,” said Chief Judge Whitaker. “This specialty court is a resource to the community and is recognized as an evidence-based practice by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs; the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.  Its use is also endorsed by the American Psychiatric Association, American College of Emergency Physicians, International Association of Chiefs of Police, National Sheriffs’ Association and National Alliance on Mental Illness.”

Second Judicial District Launches Specialty Court for Individuals with Serious Mental Illness- .PDF Version


The Honorable Stan Whitaker is the New Chief Judge of the Second Judicial District Court

The Honorable Stan Whitaker is the new Chief Judge of the Second Judicial District Court, following a unanimous vote by his colleagues on the bench.

Judge Whitaker began his term as Chief Judge on January 1, 2019, succeeding the Honorable Nan Nash, retired from the bench on December 31, 2018. 

“It was not easy for me to decide to leave a place where I have worked with exceptionally dedicated and hardworking people for more than 25 years,” Judge Nash said. “I am tremendously proud of the Court’s commitment to the rule of law and the initiatives this Court has undertaken during my tenure as Chief Judge. I know the Second Judicial District Court will be in good hands under Judge Whitaker’s leadership.”  

Judge Whitaker serves in the Second Judicial District Court’s Criminal Division. As Chief Judge, he has administrative authority over all court operations. 

“The Court’s staff has had an excellent relationship with Judge Whitaker over the years. He has demonstrated his commitment to making this court the best it can be, both as a place to work, and as an institution that serves the public,” said Court Executive Officer James Noel. “We look forward to working with Judge Whitaker as our new Chief Judge.”    


A Distinguished Legal Career

Judge Whitaker is a graduate of Albuquerque’s Sandia High School, where he met his wife of 39 years, Barbara. The Whitakers have two adult daughters.

A multisport athlete in high school, Judge Whitaker attended the University of Kansas on a track scholarship. After graduating from college, he taught for several years at Albuquerque public schools. However, his involvement, while in college, in a lawsuit against the NCAA over the amount and types of financial aid student athletes could receive had sparked his interest in the law. Ultimately, he left teaching in favor of law school.

Judge Whitaker earned his law degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 1989. He was a civil litigator with two different Albuquerque law firms before going to work in the Family Crimes Unit of the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office, where he prosecuted child abuse cases.

Judge Whitaker first came to the Second Judicial District Court as a Domestic Violence Commissioner in the Family Court Division. He left the court to work as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico.

He returned to District Court in 2006, accepting an appointment as a Family Court Judge. A year later, he moved to the Criminal Division.

“I am honored to be elected Chief Judge of a court with the quality of judges and staff we have in the Second Judicial District,” Judge Whitaker said. “It is obvious to me every day that I walk into the courthouse that everyone here is truly dedicated to public service and maintaining the public’s confidence in the judiciary.”

“Judge Nash demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the independence of the judiciary, procedural fairness and access to justice. I hope to build upon her legacy by promoting the full and fair administration of justice and in preserving the integrity of the Court.”

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Second Judicial District Court Chief Judge Nan Nash will retire on December 31, 2018. It marks the end of a 25-year career with the court that started when then-attorney Nan Nash was hired as part-time director of Court Alternatives. Judge Nash has held many positions with court, including Special Commissioner of Domestic Violence and Child Support Hearing Officer. Former Governor Bill Richardson appointed Nan Nash to the Family Court bench in 2003. She joined the Civil Division in 2007. Her colleagues elected her Chief Judge in April of 2014. Before officially stepping down, Judge Nash took some time to reflect on what has been a truly outstanding public service career.

Question: What initially sparked your interest in the legal profession and eventually the judiciary?

Judge Nash: I was not one of those people who always wanted to be a lawyer. In fact, growing up I do not even recall knowing any lawyers. I graduated from Indiana University with a degree in environmental biology. Then one day I found myself a divorced single mom in need of a way to support two kids who were 4 and 5 years old at the time. Given my strong communications and writing skills, law school seemed like a good idea. I was accepted to the Indiana University Law School. When I graduated, I went to work as a deputy city clerk. I also worked for the Bloomington City Council. However, I had lived out west a few years earlier, and knew I wanted to come back. I applied for jobs in Albuquerque and got an offer from a law firm here.

My then new husband, David, and I decided to make that move. I worked at that law firm for five years, doing primarily insurance defense work. I learned a lot, but I never really thought that was the right path for me. I started looking for other opportunities and saw an ad in the Bar Bulletin for a part time Director of Court Alternatives at the Second Judicial District Court. That was like an epiphany for me. I applied for the job and got it, and that started my 25-year career at this court. The part-time job as Director of Court Alternatives eventually became full time. I later became a Special Commissioner for Domestic Violence and a Hearing Officer in Family Court. After doing that a while, I thought it would be interesting to be a judge. I applied for an open seat on the Family Court bench and was appointed by Governor Bill Richardson in January of 2003.

Question: What is it like to be the Chief Judge of New Mexico’s largest and busiest district court?

Judge Nash: When I first took my seat on the bench after being a court staff attorney and a hearing officer, I discovered that being a judge entailed so much more than I had ever imagined. I had a similar experience upon becoming Chief Judge. I was fortunate to have come up through the ranks. That gave me an understanding of court operations. I was thankful for the opportunity to help shape this court. However, I encountered some unexpected challenges as Chief Judge. I had been a judge in Family Court and in the Civil Division. I was somewhat surprised about the level of media interest in criminal cases, as well as the level of criticism there would be of the court.

Question: Reflecting on your twenty-five years of service with the Second Judicial District Court, can you tell us about the role of the judiciary in our democracy and trends you have seen in this area?

Judge Nash: I have been reading the biography of Alexander Hamilton, who was one of the Founding Fathers who fought for an independent judiciary. The judiciary has an important role in providing checks and balances for other branches of government as well as providing an orderly way of resolving disputes among citizens. Current trends related to the judiciary in today’s society are concerning. The clamor for judges to respond to public opinion is a threat to the independence of the judiciary. It is a problem when the Chief Justice of United States Supreme Court feels compelled to step out of his role to respond to comments made by the President. Granted that is not the first time an elected official has tried to exert influence over the judiciary. That is a unique part of our democracy. Every citizen has First Amendment rights. However, if the judiciary does succumb to making rulings in response to public opinion, that would be a tragedy for our society and system of government.

Question: What are the proudest accomplishments of your career?

Judge Nash: There are a number of things I am proud to have been a part of over my 25 years with this court. Starting with my tenure as Director of Court Alternatives, where we built and strengthened many of the Court’s Alternative Dispute Resolution programs. I also am proud to have been a part of this court’s first Drug Court team, which was the first treatment court in New Mexico. In the Domestic Violence Division, Judge Whitaker and I—while serving as Special Masters—developed a pilot program for emergency orders of protection. We were appointed by the New Mexico Supreme Court to co-chair a judicial task force to standardize orders of protection. As presiding judge of Family Court, I helped develop and strengthen the Self Help Center, which has given citizens greater access to the justice system. As a judge in the Civil Division, I am proud of my decision in a case involving physician aid in dying. Even though the State Supreme Court ultimately reversed my decision, I believe I was right in recognizing a person’s right to seek the end of their suffering by choosing to have a physician’s aid in dying.

Question: What would you like the public to know about how courts work, and the responsibilities of being a judge?

Judge Nash: A judge’s job is to give all parties equal consideration in every case before them, and to render unbiased decisions in a timely manner. The public sometimes does not understand that. They also sometimes have difficulty understanding how difficult it is for judges to make decisions. Many factors come into play in almost every case. Some citizens choose to represent themselves; some lawyers do a better job of arguing cases than others. Judges have to overlook those things and apply the law to the facts of the case. That takes a lot more strength and steadfastness than most people realize.

Question: What do you think you will miss the most about being a judge?

Judge Nash: Being a part of shaping the court and by extension having a positive impact on the community. I also have become extremely close to my colleagues in the court. I will miss the camaraderie with my fellow members of the bench, as well as the court staff.

Question: What parts of the job do you think you will miss the least?

Judge Nash: Waking up in the middle of the night worrying about a court policy or thinking about a case. I will not miss the resistance to reform that we have encountered. I realize there will always be resistance to change, especially in a system like the courts, which typically moves at a glacial pace. However, I think a lot of the resistance we encountered was based in fear, and lot of that fear was due to the intense public scrutiny the court is always under. I definitely will not miss that scrutiny.

Question: What words of wisdom would you impart to attorneys just joining the profession?

Judge Nash: I would tell them two things. The first was imparted to me when I was new attorney. That is once established, a poor reputation is very hard to overcome while a good reputation, once established is fairly easy to maintain. The second thing I would tell them is that the flexibility that this profession provides is an incredible gift. If you are not finding satisfaction in the area in which you are currently working, do something different until you find that satisfaction.

Question: What are you looking forward to doing the most in your retirement?

Judge Nash: Not having so much on my plate. While serving a Chief Judge the past four and a half years, many things I did regularly have gone away. I am looking forward to hiking, biking, traveling, playing and listening to music, and of course spending more time with my three grandchildren.

Question: Is there anything else you would like to say?

Judge Nash: Courts, in general, are progressive institutions that seek to increase every citizens’ access to justice. That certainly is what this court is about, and I am extremely grateful to have worked here with so many wonderful people.

Cassie & Judge WardOne of the most recognizable faces at the Bernalillo County Juvenile Justice Center belongs to Cassie, a 6-year-old Labrador retriever.

Cassie interacts with families, especially those with children, who need her friendship. When a girl is called to testify about traumatic abuse or neglect, Cassie might sit at her feet to provide solace. Or Cassie might stay with a sobbing boy who has just been separated from his parents after being placed into protective custody.

"Cassie provides great comfort in the courtroom and gets smiles from everyone she meets when she is in the building," Children’s Court Judge Marie Ward said.  "She is a silent companion who has a way of removing the edge from very difficult situations."

Cassie has been a presence at the Juvenile Justice Center since late 2013. She is a specially-trained Courthouse CASA dog, a name that is derived from the acronym for Court Appointed Special Advocates.

Cassie was purchased using a grant by New Mexico Kids Matter, the CASA program in Albuquerque. CASA believes that every child who has been abused, neglected or is in foster care deserves to have a dedicated volunteer advocate speaking up for them in court.

"We are very fortunate to have Cassie, both as a resource and as a friend," Judge Ward said.  "She brings a lift to everyone she meets and she is especially valuable to the children who need her most."

Cassie was trained by Assistance Dogs of the West, a Santa Fe-based accredited service dog organization that also provides service dogs for the Veterans Court program. Courthouse dogs have been used around the country since 2003.

For more information about CASA please visit

​Archived News

District Courts Tackling Mental Health Issues

A person experiencing a mental health crisis is more likely to be arrested than referred to treatment, and time in jail often worsens the mental health condition, according to research by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
New Mexico Courts are taking concrete steps to address their communities’ mental health needs. The Third Judicial District Court launched an Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) Program in partnership with Doña Ana County, with federal funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration.

Under the program, started in July 2017, a district court judge can order individuals involved in civil proceedings to participate in a structured treatment program developed by a local behavioral health provider. Court and county officials expect the program to reduce the number of people hospitalized or incarcerated due to mental health issues.
The Second Judicial District Court is teaming with the City of Albuquerque and UNM’s Health Psychiatric Center to pilot an AOT court.

In anticipation of a fall launch, a delegation from the District Court and the city recently traveled to Ohio to observe two established court-ordered outpatient treatment programs. “With New Mexico’s recent enactment of assisted outpatient treatment legislation, it is important that we have this opportunity to observe how other state courts have implemented court-ordered treatment programs,” said Second Judicial District Judge Beatrice Brickhouse.

“It was extremely helpful to observe both the court’s role in this process and the actual interactions between the judge and the participant,” said Ellen Braden, who manages the City of Albuquerque’s behavioral health and wellness division. “In Ohio, the judge’s engagement with the participants clearly supports the individual’s recovery.”   
 Hospital-Based Hearing Room  
The Twelfth Judicial District Court is taking an innovative approach to serving individuals with mental-health related issues.
In April of this year, judges in the Twelfth Judicial District began hearing cases in a hearing room housed inside the behavioral health wing of the Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo.
The judges participate in an alternating monthly schedule that has a judge conducting hearings at the hospital each week. The district’s four judges share in the rotation to help ensure the success of this model.  
The Gerald Chapman Regional Medical Center opened the behavioral health unit in Alamogordo in 2016. It provides in-patient services to individuals from around the state. Community, justice partner stakeholders and advocacy groups have joined forces to share ideas and find solutions for people with mental health-related issues.
The hospital-based hearing room is the latest of these ideas.
“The outcome has meant more efficient and timelier case resolution practices, as well as a more constructive and less disruptive judicial process for individuals who may be in need of a treatment guardian, involuntary commitment or a guardian/conservator appointment,” said Court Executive Officer Katina Watson.


District Courts Tackling Mental Health Issues - .PDF Version

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