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Los Alamos Magistrate Court Judge Pat Casados has announced she’ll be running for her fourth term.
Though elections for the judgeship do not take place until November 2014, she said recent experiences and events have prompted her to toss her hat into the ring early.
Her attendance at a statewide conference for magistrate judges is one of the events that helped her make the decision. She said meeting with her colleagues and becoming a mentor to a new judge are the two factors that really helped her with the decision.
“You start looking at your job in a new way when you become a mentor,” she said, adding she was also re-elected secretary-treasurer of the New Mexico Magistrate Judges Association, which furthers her commitment to an office she’s held since 2003.
“I still love the job, and I also have some projects I’ve started that I want to see finished,” she said.
She’s also a member of the New Mexico Supreme Court’s Rules Committee. The committee’s function is to routinely examine court rules and if need be, update them, a process that never ends, she said.
“It’s a long term project, and I’m anxious to see it grow. It’s never going to be an ending project, because the rules require regular examination.”
Casados is also involved in a number of youth programs. She’s a member of the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board and the DUI Council, where she says she’s always looking for ways to fund programs that educate youth about the dangers of drinking and driving.
Before becoming a magistrate judge, Casados was a community activist as well as a stay-at-home mom. When her predecessor was thinking about retirement, she asked Casados to think about running for the office. After discussing the decision with her family she decided to do just that, receiving her legal education from New Mexico’s Judicial Education Center as well as mentoring from another judge.
That she was an alumnus of San Jon High School, located in Quay County, couldn’t have hurt her chances. According to her, the school’s produced a supreme court justice, district court judge and two magistrate judges, herself and her sister Bethe Cunningham, who served the state of New Mexico as a magistrate judge for 11 years.
Besides the many projects and activities she’s become involved in during her career, Casados says she loves the magistrate judgeship itself, saying it’s allowed her to play a pivotal role in the lives of people that for one reason or another have wound up in her courtroom.
“That kid that comes and thanks you for putting him in jail because you set him in the right track is a reward you never expect,” she said, adding that it’s sometimes made shopping at the local grocery store an interesting experience at times. “Those are the little rewards that make it all worth it,” she said.
She was also one of many voices that helped help residents gain greater access to the other judicial branches, especially when the new Los Alamos Justice Center opened in 2010.
Because Los Alamos is a fairly isolated mountain community, there was a time that residents needing to speak to district court staff or a district judge would have to travel to Santa Fe to do so. During her time as judge, Casados was one of many that also made sure staff and judges from the district court kept regular hours at Los Alamos Justice Center at least one day a week and that staff from the public defender’s office were at the center at least once a month.
“That was a change for our community, because we didn’t have the district court coming up here unless there was a case. Now they’re here one day a week, which is better for our citizens,” she said.
She was also instrumental in making sure a district attorney was available at least three days a week.
“I feel like I’ve worked to make sure this building was everything it needed to be for our community,” she said.
She’s also lobbied the state legislature to make changes in the laws. One of those changes just became official; where there are now two separate statutes for a “suspended” license and one for “revoked.” It seems like a small change, but Casados said that small change will serve to clear up a lot of ongoing confusion for police officers and those getting a traffic ticket.
“When you had to read the statute, you had to read the entire statute, so people were confused. ‘Is my license revoked, or is my license suspended?’ You can get your license suspended for not paying a ticket…suspended for not paying child support… Revoked is where you get a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated).. We separated the statute out so there was less confusion for the defendant, the police officer and the courts,” she said.
Casados has spent 42 years in Los Alamos with her husband Jeff, who recently retired from the Los Alamos National Laboratory. She and Jeff have raised two kids, Sean and Jessica who now have families of their own. Sean lives in Colorado and Jessica still lives in Los Alamos.