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Dazzling the audience with their directness, judicial candidates for First District Court fielded questions for nearly two hours during a Democratic forum at the UNM-Los Alamos Lecture Hall Thursday evening.
An audience member asked how it’s possible for anyone to have multiple DWI convictions and yet remain out driving around in public.
“One of the problems I see is the way prosecution and defense work out plea agreements…this happens all the time,” said Division 8 incumbent Judge Mary Marlowe.
She explained that she makes sure she reads the file and said that should be the case with every judge, every time.
“If they read the files then I don’t think these judges would be so willing to take the plea agreement,” Marlowe said.
She also suggested sending compliance officers out to assess who these individuals live with, their access to vehicles and other factors to ensure better out comes. “It can’t be done at sentencing,” she said.
Division 5 incumbent Sheri Raphaelson discussed a widely misunderstood aspect to interlock devices.
“This is going to make you really mad…you can be as high as .02 and your car will start,” she said. “I was just shocked – I thought it was no alcohol but it’s not – you can have some alcohol but you just can’t have a lot.”
The judges discussed whether issuing tougher sentences are a deterrent but agreed that the public is safer during the time the drivers are incarcerated.
Yvonne Quintana, also running for Division 5 told the audience she does a lot of pro bono work but not for DWI cases. “There has to be consequences,” she said.
“Judges must hand out fair and impartial justice and apply the law that is relative,” Division 2 incumbent Judge Sarah Singleton said, adding that judges have an obligation to know what’s available in terms of resources.
“We can’t tell you how we’re going to rule but we can tell you where we come from,” Division 7 incumbent Judge David Thomson said.
Opponent, T. Glenn Ellington explained that he is at a point in his career where giving back is more important than a higher income as to why he is seeking a seat on the bench.
Division 8 candidates Gary Elion and Margaret Kegel did not make it out of the selection process for judicial appointments as several of the others have. Kegel explained that the governor was looking for new names to consider at the time.
Despite the fact that the lights at the venue continually went out and had to be manually switched back on, the audience applauded the judicial panel loudly.
“This is the best forum of quality candidates all together at one time that I’ve ever seen,” said longtime community leader Nancy Bartlitt.
No Republican candidates are in the race for the four judicial seats this election. Eight of the nine Democratic candidates running attended the event. Division 2 candidate Peter Culbert was absent.
Editor’s note: Candidates for other offices attended Thursday’s event and will be covered in an upcoming story. Also, the Democratic Party of Los Alamos, the Monitor and KRSN will host a debate between Democratic candidates for State Representative, District 43 from 7-9 p.m. Thursday at the UNM-Los Alamos Lecture Hall.