Chaves County Magistrate Judge K.C. Rogers, division 1, a Republican, will face Bobby Arnett in the primary June 3. (Courtesy Photo)
Keith “K.C.” Rogers recognized at a young age that good people sometimes do bad things.
“That’s something I learned really fast in life, that there’s an awful lot of really good people that make bad decisions,” Rogers said. “It doesn’t make them bad. It just means their decision-making process wasn’t working at the time, or there’s something that causes them to make a decision they normally wouldn’t make.”
Rogers sits back inside a quiet courtroom now, as Division 1 Chaves County Magistrate Judge, after already experiencing a career in law enforcement and a starting a successful alternative sentencing program for offenders.
At 19 years old, Rogers clipped a gun to his belt and climbed into a New Mexico State Police patrol car. He talked about the time he was the officer on an open highway in the middle of nowhere, unknowingly stopping a suspected armed fugitive. And, he spoke about the years spent investigating drug crimes and criminal behavior.
“My training was designed to assist me in doing my job,” Rogers said. “I think it’s important that people know that my philosophy on things, my life goal is to be of service to people. That’s what I do.”
Rogers was appointed to the bench in August 2013 by Gov. Susana Martinez following the retirement of Judge Eugene De Los Santos. Before that, he was a hearings officer for the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy, where he heard cases regarding misconduct by law enforcement officers and reported findings to the state board. He was also president and founder of ASPEN of America and ASPEN New Mexico, a company that teaches educational programs for courts and other groups.
He walked away from those businesses upon his appointment to the court, giving his interest in the companies to his partner.
He graduated from the New Mexico State Police Academy to become one of the youngest officers for the state police. He spent 21 years with the state police and worked his way from patrol officer to narcotics investigations sergeant.
Rogers will face opponent Bobby Arnett in the Republican primary June 3. When applying for the appointment last year, Rogers was selected over Arnett, he said, because of his experience and ability to think outside the box.
Since taking the position, he has made several strides to make the courtroom more efficient.
“One of the first things I did in coming here was I sat down with my counterpart and devised a means of having electronic warrants,” Rogers said.
The process saves money by allowing investigators involved in a crime scene to write a warrant from a vehicle, submit it to a judge electronically and get it approved and printed from the car. Prior to the new system, officers would wait up to three hours for the multiple warrants.
“There’s nothing like standing in a rain storm, watching evidence get washed away while you wait for someone to obtain a warrant,” Rogers said. “And, you know that if you just had lawful permission to do your job, you could save that evidence. This process eliminates that.”
Rogers has also worked with the Chaves County Detention Center to develop the work-release and weekend incarceration programs, to allow some inmates alternatives and lessen the burden on society.
“Somebody who forgot to pay a traffic ticket or didn’t know that their payment didn’t make it though the system gets charged with this, goes to jail for four days loses their job. Their whole life is disrupted, causing a burden on society over a traffic ticket,” Rogers said.
Rogers talked about his philosophy as a judge.
“I think we as judges need to separate the people who irritate us from the people who frighten us,” he said. “There are people who make us frustrated all the time. But they are different from the people that are dangerous and scary. The people who are dangerous and scary we need to keep incarcerated. We need to find other avenues for those other people.”
He was asked once about his opinion.
“We don’t have opinions as judges,” he said. “We have an opinion, but that opinion is based on what the law says. But every individual who walks into court is an individual. Every circumstance of every case is just different. As a judge, you have to keep those things in mind, and you have to be able to separate yourself from what’s actually taking place. And my history and my background from the state police gives me that ability.”
If elected, Rogers said he will continue to make every effort to keep the community safe. The law is what it is, he said. He will always follow the law within the courtroom. He intends to keep the court efficient and communicate with the gallery.
“I am always going to be evaluating our system,” Rogers said. “Is there something we can do different with the jury process? I don’t know anybody that goes, ‘yippee, I have jury duty.’ We’re always going to be making it more convenient for people and less intrusive in their lives.”
He wants to continue to look at alternatives for incarceration, he said.
He will continue to further his education within the system, and if the courts can’t pay for it, he will pick up the tab, he said. He has taken criminal justice courses in the past. The courts require ongoing education for judges.
“As a candidate for this job, I want people to look at my qualifications and determine who they would want to be judged by, someone with an understanding and experience to determine the guilt or innocence of them and the proper punishment? Because if so, I am that person,” Rogers said. “I have a very good understanding of human nature. A very good understanding of criminal behavior.
“This court only deals with about 10 percent of civil cases. So, I study and read about the civil laws. I know how to treat a landlord-tenant dispute. But the cases that consume a majority of this court’s time involve criminal behavior.
I’m quite good at judging people. So, I would like for them to judge me based on that.”
Rogers has been married to Maria Louisa Ramirez for 32 years. They have two daughters, Margaret Kennard and Nicole Rogers. Kennard was a parole and probation officer before leaving that position to stay home and raise her children. Nicole Rogers is a lieutenant at the Chaves County Detention Center. They also have six grandchildren.
Rogers has been a member of the Tabernacle Baptist Church for 25 years. He is also a board member of the Chaves County DWI Committee, an associate member of the Chaves County Republican Women, and supports the Assurance Home and the Unity Center.