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Judge seeks to continue service

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By Carol A. Clark

Gov. Bill Richardson appointed longtime Santa Fe lawyer Sarah Singleton to replace Judge James Hall as a 1st Judicial District judge in Santa Fe in December.

“Ms. Singleton is bringing with her more than 30 years of legal experience and I am confident she will serve the 1st Judicial District Court and the people of New Mexico justly,” Richardson said at the time.

Singleton’s primary areas of practice are natural resources litigation and complex cases.

Singleton, 61, describes her work on the bench these last several months as rewarding and something she wants to continue doing for a long time to come. One of her driving passions is working to increase access to the legal system for the poor.

“I want to continue serving for the same reason I wanted to become a judge,” she said. “I believe in giving back to my community and helping individuals and families find resolution to the issues they’re facing.”

Singleton was born in Ann Arbor, Mich. She earned her bachelor’s degree in 1971 from Sarah Lawrence College and her Juris Doctorate from Indiana University School of Law in 1974.  

She has practiced law since 1974 with her first job in the Office of the Public Defender in Santa Fe.

In 1985, Singleton went to work for the Montgomery & Andrews law firm, where she was a shareholder.

In 2006, she was appointed by former President George W. Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to be one of 11 members of the bipartisan board of directors for the Legal Services Corp., which is the leading provider of civil legal aid for the poor in the United States.  

“Helping people, listening to their problems and working to help them resolve those problems is what I find both challenging and motivating,” Singleton said.  

The New Mexico Supreme Court appointed her to the New Mexico Access to Justice Commission. She served two terms on the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants and on the New Mexico Civil Legal Services Commission.

Singleton also is a member of the Texas Bar and is admitted to practice before the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, the 10th Circuit of Appeals, the United States Court of Federal Claims and the United States Supreme Court.

She is a member of the American Bar Association and served as president of the State Bar of New Mexico from 1995 to 1996 and was a member of the Board of Bar Commissioners from 1989 to 1997.

Singleton received the American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award for her work in access to justice. She also received the State Bar’s Distinguished Service Award and a Pioneer Award for her initiative in creating the Lawyer’s Care Program, which is the State Bar of New Mexico’s pro bono program dedicated to assisting legal services providers.

Singleton resides in Santa Fe with her 16-year-old dog Chippie, which she got from the Española Animal Shelter.

Under New Mexico law, state judges must face one partisan election then face periodic yes-or-no retention votes. Singleton is running against Democrat Peter Culbert.