The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Candidate Q&As: Curry County Magistrate Judge, District 1

 


Keith Farkas and Janemarie Vander Dussen, both Republicans, are seeking a four-year term as Curry County magistrate judge for District 1.

Duane Castleberry is the incumbent who chose not to seek re-election.

Candidates were given the same questions, and asked to answer them on the spot.

Absentee voting began last week and will take place Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. until June 1 and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on June 2 at the Curry County Administrative Complex.

Early voting begins Saturday and will be available Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the North Plains Mall — Police Substation.

The primary is June 5.

The annual salary for the magistrate judge position is $89,907.79.

Keith Farkas is a judicial specialist at Curry County Magistrate Court.

Summarize your understanding of the job description for magistrate judge.

Well, a magistrate judge hears most of the cases that start in Curry County. It’s a job that takes up a lot of time, and they hear everything from traffic tickets up to the first appearances for murders.

What professional experience, or otherwise, have you had that you feel qualifies you for this position?

I’ve been in public service for most of my adult life. I’ve got 26 years of experience that’s continuing, and I’ve got all three sides of the spectrum in the criminal justice system. I’ve been a police officer, I’ve worked at the detention center with inmates and I’m currently working in the courts. I think that gives me a pretty good view from all sides of the criminal justice system, that I can look at each case objectively.

Have you ever been arrested and/or charged with a crime? If so, when, what were the details and what was the disposition?

I have, back in 2006. I was arrested. Basically, it was for embezzlement. Ultimately, the case was dismissed due to lack of prosecutorial merit. Other than that, I’ve had a couple of tickets, but that was more than 10 years ago.

Have you ever been involved in a civil lawsuit, either as plaintiff or defendant? If so, when, what were the details and what was the disposition?

I’ve been involved in several, most of them stem from when I worked at the county at the jail; in fact we just got done with one. And all of those civils that I’ve been involved in, it’s been as a witness. There were a couple from way back when, when I was a police officer.

As for those dispositions, there were one or two against me that were settled outside of the court with no finding of fault with the city or myself. There were also some other civil complaints (for money owed to an auto dealer) that were settled or dismissed.

What is your relationship with local law enforcement?

I have a pretty good relationship with law enforcement. I worked well with them when I was at the jail, of course I was with local law enforcement when I was in the police department. Now, working in the courts, I work very well with them on a day-to-day basis.

Do you have any professional or personal relationships or history that might result in potential for conflicts of interest if you’re elected magistrate judge?

The only thing that would fall into that category is that my wife works for a local defense attorney. But there’s already a system in place that if that attorney ever practices in magistrate court, if I were elected, I would be recused from any cases that he would be representing.

Why do you want this job?

Well, I grew up in this town. I call it my home town even though I was born in New York. I’ve, again, spent most of my adult life serving this community and I just want to continue doing that. It’s where my heart is.

Janemarie Vander Dussen is director of victim services for the 9th Judicial District.

Summarize your understanding of the job description for magistrate judge.

Well, magistrate judges hear all misdemeanor cases. A misdemeanor is a criminal case that can be punished by up to one year in the Curry County Adult Detention Center. They also handle all civil cases up to $10,000. They also handle preliminary hearing evaluations or cases in which there has to be a probable cause determined for a case to be bound over to district court on a felony charge.

They handle such things as DWIs, up to third offense, simple possession charges, telephone harassment, and more.

What professional experience, or otherwise, have you had that you feel qualifies you for this position?

I have a master’s degree in social work from New Mexico Highlands University and a criminal justice (bachelor’s) degree with a minor in business from Sacred Heart in Connecticut.

I have had nine years courtroom experience being a victim advocate; I am also the director of victim services and have dealt with numerous criminal cases from misdemeanor to felony. I have done an internship with Oasis Children’s advocacy, and an internship with the pre-prosecution diversion program.

I am a Hartley House board member and on the Clovis-Carver Library Committee for their funding. I am also a WIN (Women Initiative Network) member, a United Way volunteer and a member of United Dairy Women.

Have you ever been arrested and/or charged with a crime? If so, when, what were the details and what was the disposition?

I have not. I don’t even have a speeding ticket to my name.

Have you ever been involved in a civil lawsuit, either as plaintiff or defendant? If so, when, what were the details and what was the disposition?

I have not.

What is your relationship with local law enforcement?

I have a great relationship with them — being a victim advocate, I work with them on a daily basis. I actually get called out on scene with them, if there is homicide, to discuss working with the victims’ families and also other felony charges. So we have a great rapport. I can call them with questions and they can reach out to me with questions pertaining to the criminal cases. We just have a mutual respect for each other, and I think they do unbelievable work and should be respected for what they do in our community. And I think as a judge you need to have the respect of law enforcement and vice versa.

Do you have any professional or personal relationships or history that might result in potential for conflicts of interest if you’re elected magistrate judge?

I think people might see working at the district attorney’s office as a potential conflict, but being a victim advocate, I’ve seen the crucial role judges play in ensuring justice, and I’m also acutely aware that defendants have also been victims. I believe victims and defendants both deserve fairness, and having my degree in social work has allowed me to assess situations as a whole.

Why do you want this job?

I have a deep love for our community and a passion for helping people, as can be seen by being a victim advocate. Being a magistrate judge will allow me to continue serving the community and also upholding justice for all.

— Compiled by Staff Writer David Grieder

 

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