Fellow concerned citizens,
I want to thank you for the support you have shown me thus far in my campaign and to share with you some thoughts about the position of magistrate judge. Many of you have asked me, “Why do we have so many judges for such a small town? We don’t have that much crime do we?” The answer, when boiled down to the basics, is fairly easy to understand.
The differences between municipal and magistrate judges are their jurisdictions. Municipal Court has jurisdiction over violations of municipal ordinances, and the municipal judge is an elected Los Alamos County official. The Magistrate Court is a “court of limited original jurisdiction,” according to the Administrative Office of the Courts. The magistrate judge is a state official elected by a county and serves that county.
The magistrate court system does provide a means for elected magistrates to serve in other counties to assist the magistrates there, but their primary responsibility is the county where they are elected. The magistrate handles traffic offenses, misdemeanors, and civil claims under $10,000. These account for the majority of the judge’s time in the courtroom.
An individual is qualified to be a magistrate judge if he or she is a qualified elector (18 years of age and registered to vote), high school graduate or equivalent, and resident of the county in which she seeks to serve. When looking at this criteria, I think the lawmakers who set this qualification standard believed that not only was it appropriate, but it was also important, for the average citizen to sit on the magistrate judicial bench to mete out justice at the local level.
While I have lived in this town for only a few years, I have been a college student, employee of a small business, and a small business owner. I am concerned about safety issues in our community. My husband is a police officer here. I care about his safety and the safety of our infant son as well.
I decided to run for this office because I became frustrated by the number of repeat offenders in our county, noticing the same names appearing again and again and again in the Police Beat or the Police Blotter of our local media. I became curious what was going on with these individuals, and why they continued to offend so frequently.
I began to look up case history on a few of these individuals to see what sentences they were receiving and how those impacted their future encounters with the law. I was quite surprised to see that those who had offended several times were treated much like those who offended just once.
Some have asked, “What training have you done to qualify to serve as a judge?” Because the state sets the standard for magistrate to include those without legal backgrounds, the state also provides judicial training to all elected magistrates, even those who have held the seat before.
You may feel that training isn’t enough. I certainly questioned it at first myself. But it is important to understand that the magistrate court is not a court of record. That is, magistrate courts do not set case law nor do they order organizations or government agencies on how to act.
Recently, our current magistrate spoke at an open forum where she stated her goal was to treat offenders as she wished to be treated. While I could agree that a judge should certainly treat an offender fairly and justly, without stripping them of their dignity, a judge must not sentence offenders as they would wish to be sentenced.
After all, who wants a steep sentence for any offense, much less when they continue to repeat those offenses. Our magistrate should be protecting the rights of victims and offenders alike, providing the opportunity for offenders to learn from their sentencing, and providing sentences that protect both victim and offender from the ongoing cycle of repeated criminal activity.
If you believe our magistrate could be doing a better job, I respectfully ask for your vote for Magistrate Judge when you go to the polls.