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Second Judicial District Court

Tribunal del Segundo Distrito Judicial

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Law-La-Palooza Free Legal Fairs are back for 2018; First One in Barelas on March 15

The Second Judicial District Court Pro Bono Committee and the Volunteer Attorney Program will host their first Law-La-Palooza free legal fair of the year on Thursday, March 15, 2018. The event will take place at the Barelas Community Center, 801 Barelas Rd. SW, Albuquerque, from 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM.

These free legal fairs are designed to help low-income people and families facing a wide range of legal issues, including divorce, custody, bankruptcy, contracts, landlord/tenant, creditor/debtor, child support, kinship/guardianship, wills, probates, personal injury, powers of attorney, public benefits, unemployment, immigration, SSI/SSDI, IRS tax issues foreclosure, and name changes.

The District Court’s Pro-Bono Committee—co-chaired by Judges Shannon Bacon and Alan Malott—has been hosting Law-La-Paloozas each year since 2010. Over that time, roughly 8,000 individuals—about 1,000 each year—have gotten help with their legal problems at these events.

“New Mexicans continue to struggle in a difficult economy which has left one in five of us at or near the poverty level. Legal problems exacerbate the effects of poverty and can foster a cycle of failure that derails lives,” said Judge Malott. “New Mexico lawyers have shown both responsibility and compassion for those less fortunate by providing free consultations to thousands of residents through Law-LaPalooza legal fairs in Bernalillo County and across the state. The need continues and I know the Bar will remain responsive. ”

Law-La-Palooza participants can speak with an attorney or legal expert for 30 minutes about any legal issues they are facing. Volunteers are comprised of attorneys, judges, court staff, and law students. Interpreters and bilingual attorneys will be on site. Help will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Community service providers also staff tables to provide additional resources to attendees. Prior to the March 15 event, the Southwest Women’s Law Center will give a free presentation on accessing child care and health care benefits from 2:00 PM to 2:45 PM. Those who attend the presentation can preregister for their consultation with an attorney.

The Second Judicial District Court Pro Bono Committee and the Volunteer Attorney Program, a program of Legal Aid New Mexico, host four Law-La-Palooza events each year. The full schedule for 2018 is below. All events run from 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM.

  • Law-La-Palooza—March 15, 2018, Barelas Community Center, 801 Barelas Road, SW, Albuquerque
  • Law-La-Palooza—July 12, 2018, Alamosa Community Center, 6900 Gonzales Rd SW, Albuquerque
  • Law-La-Palooza—October 18, 2018, North Domingo Baca Community Center, 7521 Carmel Ave NE, Albuquerque
  • Law-La-Palooza—December 13, 2018, Loma Linda Community Center, 1700 Yale Blvd SE, Albuquerque.

For more information about these events, contact Aja Brooks, Pro Bono Coordinator for the Volunteer Attorney program, at 505-814-5033 or .

The Second Judicial District, including Chief Judge Nan Nash, has been helping the University Of New Mexico School of Law Frederick Douglass Moot Court Team prepare for the upcoming national competition in Brooklyn, New York in March 2018.

The team members are Valentina Basile and Sara Klemundt, who was a judicial extern with the District Court in the fall of 2017. Klemundt and Basile took first place in the Western Regional competition this past January. Both team members are part of the UNM Law School class of 2019. They are coached by Professor Emerita Barbara P. Blumenfeld.

A moot court competition simulates arguing a case before an appellate court. In their competitions, Klemundt and Basile have been arguing issues of how the Fourth Amendment impacts the circumstances of a cross-border shooting and damage remedies under a Bivens claim.

Chief Judge Nash and members of the District Court—including Tori Jacobus, Director of the Court’s Self Help & Dispute Resolution Center—have been helping the team prepare by sitting in as the Appellate Court panel during practice sessions.

In a recent practice session, Chief Judge Nash and Elizabeth Garcia, the Court’s General Counsel, joined Professor Blumenfeld to make up the appellate panel. As they listened to oral arguments, panel members peppered the aspiring attorneys with questions that judges would likely raise during an actual appellate hearing.

The students had intelligent responses to panelist’s questions, displaying the poise and confidence that helped them place first overall at the Western Regionals. The team also won the team won the award for Best Petitioner's Brief, and Klemundt earned the award for Best Oral Advocate.

With that record, the team is poised to do well at the National Frederick Douglass Moot Court Competition. Members of the Second Judicial District Court are proud to have helped them along the way.

ALBUQUERQUE – If you’ve ever wondered how the court system works, you can get an introduction to the important work the judiciary does every day. The Second Judicial District Court will open its doors to the community for public tours the first week in March in recognition of National Judicial Outreach Week.

The American Bar Association’s Judicial Division has designated the first full week of March each year as National Judicial Outreach Week. “Preserving the Rule of Law” is the theme for this week. Preservation of our liberty as individual citizens depends on preservation of the rule of law, and the preserving the rule requires having fair and impartial courts.

“We encourage people to come tour the Court and see the significant work courts do every day. The Court exists to serve the public, and its primary mission is to ensure that everyone—regardless of their background or social standing—is treated fairly under the law,” said Chief Judge Nan Nash.

Court tours at the main Second Judicial District Courthouse at 400 Lomas will begin at 9:00 AM and 1:00 PM on Tuesday, March 6 and Thursday, March 8, 2018. The Second Judicial District Children’s Court, located at 5100 Second Street., NW will host a tour on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, beginning at 1:30 PM.

Visitors will get an overview of the New Mexico judiciary and the role of the District Court in the judiciary. They also will learn about the different divisions of District Court and what types of cases each division handles.

Any member of the community wishing to take a court tour should sign up in advance by sending an email with the words “Court Tour” in the subject line to All court visitors also should be aware of the need to comply with established court security procedures, which means no cellphones, weapons or contraband are allowed inside the courthouse. All visitors will be screened for such items before entering the courthouse for safety purposes.

The Second Judicial District Court’s stated mission includes providing services to the diverse community of Bernalillo County in a knowledgeable and safe environment. The staff in the Court’s Scanning Division takes that mission to heart.

This division is responsible for scanning, quality checking and organizing files related to the thousands of cases that flow through the district court each year. The Scanning Division also staffs the Court’s Information Desk, which fields questions from people who contact the Court by phone or when they walk into the building.

In 2017, the Information Desk processed a total of 35,996 telephone calls and assisted 25,442 individuals in person.

Elissia Torres is primarily responsible for staffing the Information Desk and is well known for being extremely helpful in getting members of the public the information they need—whether communicating with them in phone or in person. Elissia also assists in developing articles and taking photographs for the Court’s website.

Other division employees also enthusiastically staff the Information desk when called upon, along with their other duties. Several of those staff members are Language Access Specialists. They provided language interpretation services to members of the public more than 700 times in 20017.

The Second Judicial District says kudos to the entire Scanning Division for a job well done.

For three days in February, several judges in Bernalillo County's Second Judicial District will turn their courtrooms over to teams of aspiring attorneys vying for spots in the finals of the country’s most prestigious mock trial competition.  In addition, a number of district court judges have volunteered to preside over some of the mock trials.

Law students participating in mock trials develop important skills, including creative problem solving, effective collaboration, forming persuasive arguments, public speaking, critical thinking, and thinking on one's feet.

"The regional mock trial competition provides invaluable experience for the next generation of practicing attorneys.  It is important that the entire legal community and the judiciary come together and support these types of experiences for aspiring attorneys.  These events offer a unique opportunity for law students to practice trial advocacy skills in a courtroom setting," said Chief Judge Nan Nash.

Teams from law schools in five western states—New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma and Wyoming—will be competing in the regional round of the National Mock Trial competition.  The American College of Trial Lawyers has sponsored this national competition every year since 1975.  The top two teams from the regional round will compete in the national finals in Austin, Texas later this year.  The winning team at the national finals earns a $10,000 donation to its law school.

The Second Judicial District Court opened its courtrooms for this competition at the request of the University of New Mexico School of Law, the official host for the regional competition.

"We are honored to host the National Mock Trial Competition for the western region this year and deeply grateful to the all of the members of the judiciary and staff of the Second Judicial District Courthouse for their kind support of this important competition," said UNM School of Law Co-Deans Alfred Mathewson and Sergio Pareja.

Members of the local legal community also have volunteered to support this event by serving as bailiffs, witnesses and other necessary parties for the various trials taking place over the three days.  Special thanks go to the student competitors and to their coaches.

The Second Judicial District Court hosted an annual Giving Tree Project for local charitable service organizations this holiday season. SJDC partnered with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and New Mexico Kids Matter, the New Mexico Veterans Integration Center, the APS Title I Homeless Project, and Animal Humane New Mexico. The Court’s aim was inspire those who work here and those who provide services to the public to give back to the community. SJDC giving trees were located in the fourth floor of the Bernalillo County Courthouse and at the Juvenile Justice Center during the month of December.

"This project seeks to bring a little extra joy to children, veterans, and our devoted companion animals during the season of giving," said James Noel, Court Executive Officer. SJDC staff demonstrated exceptional community service by helping meet the needs and wishes of others this holiday season. Some employees have made it an annual tradition to select a child, veteran, or animal in need and provide gifts requested by the charitable organizations. SJDC staff contributed several wish list items, ranging from toys, assorted toiletries, winter clothing items, shoes and pet needs. "The value of private donations made by members of the public, friends of the animal community, the District Attorney's Office, the Law Office of the Public Defender, civilian staff and officers of the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center, and SJDC staff and Judges is estimated to be over $5,000" said Noel.

A small ceremony was held on Friday, December 22, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. at the Bernalillo County Courthouse, Fourth Floor Atrium to present donations to the partner service organizations. The Court expressed its gratitude for the outstanding service these organizations provide to our community year-round as well as to its own court staff who generously supported the Giving Tree Project.

"The joy on their faces at the surprise gifts was priceless," commented Elinor Reiners, CEO and Program Director of the New Mexico Veterans Integration Center.

"The outpouring of community support from court staff and the public has been remarkable and humbling," said Chief Judge Nan Nash. "Thank you SJDC staff for coming together, investing in our community and making a truly meaningful impact for these charities throughout the year," said Chief Judge Nash.

The Second Judicial District Court has established designated public locations for nursing mothers to breastfeed their child in accordance with New Mexico law. The nursing rooms are available for mothers that may be at the downtown Courthouse or at the John E. Brown Juvenile Justice Center for jury service, hearings etc. The room at the downtown courthouse is located on the 5th Floor, Room 519. Childrens Court has established Room 238 for nursing mothers at the Juvenile Justice Center. Court employees also have a designated employee nursing room.

“The Second Judicial District Court welcomes the opportunity to provide a comfortable space for nursing mothers,” said Chief Judge Nan Nash. 

If you have a request to use the public nursing room at the downtown Courthouse, contact Court Administration at 841-7425 or Purchasing at 841-7458. Contact Court Administration at 841-7644 for use of the public nursing room at Children’s Court. Court staff will accompany the mother to the room to open the room for their use. Court administration has installed a lock that indicates whether the room is occupied and in use and maintains privacy.

Second Judicial District Court Human Resource staff (Eric Mitchell, Human Resources Administrator Sr. and Janet Van Why, Human Resources Administrative Assistant 2) attended a recent Career Fair at La Cueva High School on October 25, 2017.  The career fair allowed students to explore various careers and network with professionals in the community.  Several students expressed their interest in learning about internship and career opportunities at the Second Judicial District Court.  Most students had questions about what it would take to be a lawyer or Judge and were highly interested in the legal profession.  The Second Judicial District Court is a great place to learn about the judicial system.

For more information about career opportunities and internships, contact the Human Resource Division at 841-7432.  Minors must have parental permission.  Click on this link for Second Judicial District Court Volunteer/Intern application.

Cassie & Judge WardOne of the most recognizable faces at the Bernalillo County Juvenile Justice Center belongs to Cassie, a 6-year-old Labrador retriever.

Cassie interacts with families, especially those with children, who need her friendship. When a girl is called to testify about traumatic abuse or neglect, Cassie might sit at her feet to provide solace. Or Cassie might stay with a sobbing boy who has just been separated from his parents after being placed into protective custody.

"Cassie provides great comfort in the courtroom and gets smiles from everyone she meets when she is in the building," Children’s Court Judge Marie Ward said.  "She is a silent companion who has a way of removing the edge from very difficult situations."

Cassie has been a presence at the Juvenile Justice Center since late 2013. She is a specially-trained Courthouse CASA dog, a name that is derived from the acronym for Court Appointed Special Advocates.

Cassie was purchased using a grant by New Mexico Kids Matter, the CASA program in Albuquerque. CASA believes that every child who has been abused, neglected or is in foster care deserves to have a dedicated volunteer advocate speaking up for them in court.

"We are very fortunate to have Cassie, both as a resource and as a friend," Judge Ward said.  "She brings a lift to everyone she meets and she is especially valuable to the children who need her most."

Cassie was trained by Assistance Dogs of the West, a Santa Fe-based accredited service dog organization that also provides service dogs for the Veterans Court program. Courthouse dogs have been used around the country since 2003.

For more information about CASA please visit

​Archived News

Judge Elizabeth Whitefield Receives UNM School of Law's Distinguished Achievement Award

The Honorable Elizabeth Whitefield was among three people who were honored by the University Of New Mexico School of Law during the annual Distinguished Achievement Awards Dinner.

Whitefield, the Presiding Judge of the Family Court, was recognized not only for her successful career as an attorney and judge but also for community service. She is a 1977 graduate of UNM’s School of Law.

Judge Whitefield joined the Court in 2007 after more than 30 years as a family law attorney. Family Court handles divorces, legal separations, custody and time-sharing matters, division of property and debts in divorce cases, spousal support, child support, Uniform Parentage Act cases for unmarried parents, domestic violence cases, kinship-guardianship of children cases and adult adoptions.

The event, sponsored by the Law Alumni Association, is a key fundraiser for the School of Law. Since its inception in 1993, the school has honored 65 graduates and raised more than $570,000 for law school programs, including the Association’s full-tuition scholarships.

According to the School of Law, the dinner honors extraordinary accomplishments and dedicated service by lawyers and others in the legal community to the UNM School of Law, the New Mexico legal community and the greater community inside and outside New Mexico.

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