From left: Chaves County Magistrate Judges John Halvorson, K.C. Rogers, magistrate judge candidate Bobby Arnett, and 5th Judicial District Court Judges Ray Romero and James Hudson spoke Wednesday at the Chaves County Republican Women’s luncheon. (Courtesy Photo)
Hundreds attended the Chaves County Republican Women luncheon Wednesday to hear from 5th Judicial District and magistrate judge candidates.
Though sitting judges were limited in what they could discuss, the speakers shared their backgrounds and talked about their personal thoughts about serving on the bench.
Attendees also included several newly elected city councilors, Mayor Dennis Kintigh and former Mayor Del Jurney, and many state and county elected officials. Candidates for other county offices also visited with the luncheon guests.
Fifth Judicial Judges Jim Hudson and Ray Romero, both unopposed, spoke about their experiences.
Hudson was appointed by Gov. Susana Martinez in 2013. Hudson spent 28 years, mainly dealing in litigation, with the Hinkle Law Firm. He is a single parent with two daughters, he said.
He shared two impressions he’s formed as a new judge.
“The first is that the 5th Judicial District is comprised of people who are incredibly hard-working,” Hudson said. “Although I did litigation for many years, I never really had a true appreciation for how hard the people work.”
In the fiscal year of 2013, Chaves County had 4,400 new and reopened cases. The district had more than 12,000 and 89,000 filings. Each filing is sent to a judge, Hudson said.
“Over 100,000 people came through the courthouse in Chaves County last year,” Hudson said.
Chaves County also had the second-highest number of jury trials last year, at 204. That meant each of the 10 judges had an average of 20 jury trials, he said.
“Fairness in the judiciary is paramount,” Hudson said. “When people come into court, they need to know the judge will be fair and impartial. They need to know they will be heard and their case will be decided on the evidence and the law.
“The biggest misapprehension I’ve run into as a new judge is that friends think I will hear their case. But it’s not something I can do or will do. Judges take an oath to be fair and impartial.”
Romero, who serves in Carlsbad, began by talking about his faith, his wife and his daughters. He is a native New Mexican and attended the University of New Mexico. He earned a law degree from the University of Dayton in Ohio and moved to Carlsbad.
He became an assistant district attorney after working first for a technical assistance contractor for WIPP. He spent 18 years with the district attorney’s office before becoming a judge.
“Over that time, I prosecuted every type of case there is,” Romero said. “It really helped me in becoming a judge.
“From a very young age, I had an urge to achieve justice. To right wrongs that had been done to people. I think that’s what drew me initially to becoming an assistant district attorney and has driven me to strive to become a judge.”
Romero said he appreciated every vote possible.
Magistrate Judge K.C. Rogers, who was appointed by Martinez last year, has a background in law enforcement. He lives in Dexter with his wife. He has two adult daughters.
“Years ago, there was a magistrate judge who told me I needed to consider it, needed to look at it,” Rogers said.
At the time, he was an undercover police officer for the New Mexico State Police. He was dedicated to doing everything he could to keep the community safe and keep drug dealers out, he said.
But he went into criminal investigations for the state in the southeast region until he retired. He knew though, he was not done serving the public.
That’s when he began an alternative sentencing system with the help of Judges Eugene De Los Santos and Robert Corn. The highly recognized program, run by retired criminal investigators and narcotics agents, has served 44,000 people and spread to other states, he said.
“I left that when I was appointed to this job,” Rogers said. “I applied for this position because I was not done yet. I competed with some other gentlemen and was given this job by the governor. I am qualified. I have a past that proves that I’m qualified.
“Judge (John) Halvorson and I do things every day to make things better, to make it more efficient, to make sure people are treated properly in our courts. And if you give me the opportunity, I will continue to do that,” Rogers said.
Candidate Bobby Arnett said there were four reasons to vote for him.
“I ask you to vote for me,” Arnett said. “I am from here. I’m educated. I’m involved. I’m experienced and I would appreciate your vote.”
Arnett is a Roswell native who graduated from New Mexico Military Institute in criminal justice, transferred to UNM and majored in criminology, and studied legal research and writing at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell.
“I feel that in order to protect our conservative values, we need to participate in the elections and vote whenever possible,” Arnett said.
“When I heard Judge De Los Santos was retiring, I heard a call to run for magistrate judge. I knew I had the qualifications and the ability, and I decided to pursue this goal and follow the example of Judge De Los Santos, by being a compassionate judge.”
Arnett has worked at a successful law practice for many years, which has exposed him to a variety of cases.
He said he also has a lifetime of business experience in helping his family with wholesale, manufacturing and retail. He has served as a vice president of a company since 1993. He is also involved in the community, church, schools, the Boy Scouts and other organizations.