Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Attorney opposes ousted judge’s intent to re-apply

Staff writer

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A Logan attorney wants a new judge in the Tenth Judicial District.

Warren Frost has asked the chair of the nominating commission seeking a successor for Judge Albert Mitchell to reject Mitchell’s application for the job he just lost.

Frost also wants Mitchell off of the nominating commission.

Frost made the requests in a letter photocopied to David J. Herring, dean of the University of New Mexico Law School, who chairs the nominating commission.

Mitchell was ousted from the judge’s bench in the Nov. 4 general election.

To keep his judicial position, he needed “yes” votes from 57 percent of voters. He received less than 50 percent approval.

Mitchell, however, intends to re-apply to keep his position.

OnTuesday, he said he wanted to retain his position on the nominating commission as well, but on Wednesday, he asked state supreme court Chief Justice Barbara J. Vigil to remove him from the nominating commission.

Mitchell is the only judge in the Tenth Judicial District, and the state constitution says one judge from a rejected judge’s district must have a seat on the nominating commission.

The district includes Quay, De Baca and Harding counties.

Frost’s letter said Mitchell’s apparent intention to apply for the job and sit on the commission “clearly demonstrates his disqualification to serve in any judicial capacity.” But the letter also said Frost’s main concern was Mitchell’s “apparent belief that he can apply for the vacancy, which has been created by the voters not retaining him as district judge.”

Mitchell said there is no law that prohibits him from applying to keep his job, and he intends to apply.

In the 2012 general election, he said, more than 3,000 voters marked ballots with “yes” votes to retain him, but in 2014, only 1,884 voted against his retention. With 2014’s relatively light turnout, he said, the 1,884 votes against him fails to constitute a mandate.

Herring’s office did not return a phone call Wednesday. But on Tuesday, Herring’s administrative assistant said Chief Justice Barbara J. Vigil would have to decide whether Mitchell should sit on the commission.

Deborah Dungan, administrative assistant to Vigil, said Wednesday that whether Mitchell should sit on the commission is a decision for Herring to make.

The commission will hold its first public session to evaluate candidates at 10 a.m. Dec. 11 in the Quay County Courthouse in Tucumcari.

After that first meeting, applicants selected will face public interview sessions. Following those sessions, the commission will meet in private, but will convene in public to make a final recommendation to Gov. Martinez, who makes the final appointment.