Household Court docket supplied entry to justice throughout COVID-19 » Albuquerque Journal

When the COVID-19 pandemic swept through our state in March 2020, the court immediately began responding to the needs of the public while keeping the public and staff safe.

Judges and key personnel worked daily, meeting with experts, planning and writing pandemic protocols. The Supreme Court guided all state courts through this pandemic and helped expand access to justice in a truly unprecedented time. Judges and hearing officers switched from face-to-face to phone and video hearings as quickly as possible. Self-represented litigants submitted their files by email and fax. While there were technical glitches along the way, the court was innovative and flexible to meet the needs of the public during the pandemic. Even after the jury trial was temporarily suspended, the work of this court continued unabated.

The family court, like the rest of the New Mexico judiciary, has never closed its doors. There are four family judges in the Second District Court: Judges Debra Ramirez, Gerard Lavelle, Jane C. Levy, and Amber Chavez Baker. The primary role of a family court judge is to ensure the safety, well-being, and longevity of children and families. Between April 1, 2020 and April 1, 2021, these four judges signed 36,357 court orders. Hundreds of hearings and court cases were held during the pandemic to redefine access to justice to better ensure that children and families are at the forefront of family justice. Critical issues facing families have been brought to justice during the pandemic, including domestic violence, child custody, child support, spousal support and visiting plans for non-custodial parents. During this time, the family court opened 5,673 new cases and reopened 4,027 cases. These 9,700 cases do not include any pending proceedings. The four judges fully resolved 98% of the cases filed in 2020.

The family court judges are part of a team that includes hearing officers, child support and domestic relations officers, self-help services, and the court clinic, not to mention the support staff who keep this court running. Without this team, the judges would not be able to do their job effectively.

The Domestic Violence Department is extremely important to our community, a community in which they both live and work. Judges take emergency calls for protection orders day and night, with some calls being received repeatedly during the night. This department conducts many hearings every day and reviews hundreds of domestic violence petitions. During the pandemic, the department needed help hearing cases and all four judges and hearing officers stepped in to ensure justice was maintained.

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The judges of the family court strive to negotiate cases with integrity and timeliness. They are committed to improving the administration of justice by serving on the Supreme Court, volunteering on access to justice committees, and showing ways to innovate the whole of justice to ensure access to justice for all. They chose the bank on the basis of a strong respect and commitment to equal justice under the law. They hear cases that profoundly affect people’s lives – matters that affect families and children – and they take the legal oath of office seriously.

Judges chose civil service through the judiciary. The judges of the family court remain obliged to make measured and lawful decisions, and every decision is equally important. Judges need to have the courage to do the right thing, even knowing that their decisions may not be popular. It is their job as trusted judicial officers of this state to make decisions based on law and facts, even when the parties are suffering from personal trauma and sometimes mental illness. They did this even though the world was changing quickly. And they will continue to listen to cases and provide access to justice in an efficient and forward-looking manner no matter what our future holds.

_nutgraph ”> Judges committed to hearing cases with integrity and timeliness in unprecedented times.

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