Chief justice says efficiency, fairness of legal system at stake
In a speech to both houses of the state Legislature, Maes, right, said timely justice was at stake.
She told lawmakers that judges have become more efficient through electronic cases filings and other technological advances, but the simple fact is that they cannot keep up with growing caseloads.
She repeated a request by the Administrative Office of the Courts from last fall to add nine judges, mostly for civil cases.
The estimated annual cost increase would be $3.54 million for the judges, their court staffs and related costs.
Seven of the additional judges would handle civil cases.
Three would be added in the Albuquerque-based judicial district. One each would go to Santa Fe, Las Cruces, suburban Albuquerque and the Carlsbad-Hobbs-Roswell region.
Maes also asked for one more magistrate for criminal court in Las Cruces and another Bernalillo County Metro Court judge who would handle both civil and criminal cases.
Along with more money for new judges and their staffs, Maes asked the Legislature to fund a pay raise for court employees.
She said they had lost ground in take-home pay during the recession of the last four years.
Rep. Henry “Kiki” Saavedra, D-Albuquerque, typically carries bills for the courts. Saavedra last year sponsored legislation to add three judges in New Mexico.
It cleared the House of Representatives 64-0 and the Senate 38-0, but Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed it.
She said she was worried that the appropriation was not sufficient to fully fund the judges and support staff, supplies and furnishings needed for their courts.