A 1988 State constitutional amendment supplemented a purely political system for selecting judges with a merit-selection appointment process.
Judicial Nominating Commissions now vet judicial appointment applicants using 12 criteria. Commissions are independent; include judges, lawyers, and non-lawyers; and are bipartisan.
Only Commission-recommended applicants may be appointed. The appointed judge runs in the next partisan election cycle.
The revised system improved both judicial caliber and diversity. A study by a former UNM Law School Dean in 2000 found the revised system increased the number of women and minority judges.
In the June primary, Democrats will choose the Division 2 judge for the First Judicial District. The choice is between a Commission-recommended candidate — Judge Gregory S. Shaffer — and three opponents who were not recommended by a Commission when they applied for appointment.
I support Greg for many reasons. Most fundamentally, he is the only Commission-recommended candidate for Division 2.