Council accepts Probate Judge Bill McKerley’s resignation

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Applications to fill remaining term are now being accepted.

By Arin McKenna

The Los Alamos County Council accepted Probate Judge Bill McKerley’s resignation on Tuesday. McKerley was appointed to the position on Feb. 16, after previous Probate Judge Christine Chandler resigned. He recently learned of changes to the Code of Judicial Conduct – instituted Dec. 31, 2015 – that prohibit part-time judges from engaging in political conduct such as fundraising and endorsing candidates. McKerley serves as chair of the Republican Party of Los Alamos County. After consulting with County Attorney Rebecca Ehler, he chose to keep that position and instead resign as probate judge. He tendered his resignation to council Chair Rick Reiss in a letter dated May 19. Applications to fill the vacancy through the end of the year will be accepted until 5 p.m. June 21. Under State law, any qualified person over the age of 18 who is a resident of Los Alamos County may serve. Interested applicants should submit a one to two page letter indicating why they would be interested in serving as probate judge. Letters may be mailed or hand-delivered to County Manager Harry Burgess, Los Alamos County Municipal Building, 1000 Central Avenue, Suite 350, Los Alamos, NM 87544. Council will select a new probate judge on June 28. Candidates who submit a letter are expected to attend that meeting to respond to questions from the Council about their qualifications. McKerley’s resignation also raises issues concerning the upcoming election. McKerley was the only candidate from either party running to fill the position for the next four years. His resignation comes too late for his name to be removed from the primary ballot and thus his withdrawal from the ballot will not be effective. Election laws allow a political party to replace its nominee on the general election ballot when a vacancy occurs after the primary election. Therefore the Republican Party can name a substitute candidate for the office of probate judge. Any other person who wishes to run for the office may do so as a write-in, independent or minor party candidate by collecting the required petition signatures and filing a declaration of candidacy in the County Clerk’s office on June 30, 2016 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information about the duties of the Probate Judge or responsibilities of Probate Court, visit http://www.losalamosnm.us/clerk/Pages/ProbateCourt.aspx. For information about being a write-in, independent or minor party candidate for Probate Judge and making a declaration of candidacy, please visit the New Mexico Secretary of State website (http://www.sos.state.nm.us/) or contact the County Clerk’s office at 662-8010.