Local judge honored by peers

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Casados enters third term on Magistrate Court bench

By Carol A. Clark

It’s been a busy year for the Hon. Pat A. Casados of the Los Alamos Magistrate Court.
 She was elected by fellow judges to the Board of Directors of the New Mexico Magistrate Judges Association, completed a state-wide conference in search and seizure law, earned a professional certificate and ran a successful reelection campaign to a third consecutive four-year term.
“The board of directors of the association is a respected group of judges whose advice we seek frequently concerning legislative and policy matters and we are glad to have Judge Casados as an officer on the board,” said Karen James, Administrative Office of the Court, a judicial agency of the New Mexico Supreme Court.
Casados, 59, earned her professional certificate in Judicial Development for Special Jurisdiction Trial Skills from the National Judicial College.
“I took classes in Reno, Nev., Albuquerque and online and the level of education is fantastic,” Casados said. “It’s an interactive experience with other judges from across the country, which gives us a broader perspective in everything from managing our courts to sentencing.”
The certification is a level of study that complements existing degrees. Judges who earn Certificates in Judicial Development achieve a higher level of judicial expertise, skill and knowledge, Casados said.
The Judicial Education Center in Albuquerque provided scholarships to Casados for a number of the 75 credit hours worth of classes comprised in the program and she said that she paid the remainder out of pocket.
Casados typically hears up to 20 domestic violence cases, 25 DWIs, 50 civil and 300 traffic cases annually. She’s also officiated more than 225 marriages in her years on the bench.
“I love this work because no two days are the same and it gives me such joy each time someone I’ve sentenced comes back to thank me for putting them on a straight path and their family thanks me because I’ve helped turned their loved one’s life around,” Casados said.
Casados serves on the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board and the DWI Planning Council. She is a frequent speaker before the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and works with the Los Alamos High School civic classes in their court sessions.
Casados also is an instructor for the 2010 New Judges Orientation and Training Program. She and several other judges throughout the state dedicate their time to ensuring new judges are well trained. New judges now receive four weeks of training whereas when Casados was first elected in 2002, the training term ran just five days.
“We’ve really worked hard to make sure the training is strong. The New Mexico Supreme Court has been very pleased with the way the Magistrate Court is taking care of its own,” Casados said.
Casados was born in Tucumcari and raised in the small community of San Jon, N.M. where just 150 students comprised her entire K-12 school. San Jon has graduated a Supreme Court justice, a District Court judge and two Magistrate Court judges, she said. The other judge is her sister, Bethe Cunningham, who served 11 years on the bench in Tatum, N.M.
Casados met her husband Jeff while they were students at Eastern New Mexico University. The couple married in 1971 and moved to Los Alamos where Jeff was born and raised. They have two children, Sean, 39, who lives in Denton, Texas and Jessica, 32, who lives in Los Alamos. They also have a 3-year-old grandson named Zeus.