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JURY TRIALS RESUME FEB. 1, 2021

Criminal and civil jury trials will resume Feb. 1, 2021, with New Mexico courts continuing to operate with public health precautions against COVID-19.

The Supreme Court issued an order on Dec. 14, 2020 for the resumption of trials with jurors in February. Jury trials – but not grand juries – were paused in November because new cases of the coronavirus were spiking across New Mexico.

“The Supreme Court and its Emergency Response Team constantly monitors public health conditions and will continue to take every step necessary to ensure courts safeguard New Mexicans needing access to the justice system,” said Chief Justice Michael E. Vigil.

During the pandemic, New Mexico courts have remained open with COVID-safe procedures and practices. These include:

  • A minimum of 6-foot distancing between people in courtrooms, juror assembly rooms and other locations throughout courthouses. This ensures potential jurors will not be sitting next to one another during jury selection or a trial.
  • Requiring everyone – jurors, attorneys, witnesses, judges, court staff and other courthouse visitors – to wear a mask when in a court building. Each juror receives hand sanitizer, a mask, notebook and pen.
  • Temperature checks and screening of everyone to ensure someone with symptoms does not enter a court facility.
  • Protective plexiglass has been installed where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting all areas in judicial buildings, particularly high-touch surfaces such as doors. Hand sanitizer is available to the public throughout courthouses.

Judges continue to conduct non-jury trials and other civil and criminal proceedings through video and telephone conferencing. This allows courts to hear critical legal matters such as potential public health cases and the initial pleas of people charged with crimes, make constitutionally required pretrial decisions, and issue restraining orders to protect domestic violence victims. In-person court hearings may occur in limited instances with approval of the chief judge of a judicial district.

CUSTOMER SERVICE CALL CENTER

The Administrative Office of the Courts operates a centralized call center that can provide basic information in English and Spanish about court services, cases and how to comply with citations, summonses and warrants. The service is available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.,  Monday through Friday. Call 855-court-4 or 855-268-7804.

EVICTIONS PAUSED FOR INABILITY TO PAY RENT

The state Supreme Court has paused evictions for New Mexicans who prove that they are unable to pay rent during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about eviction stay.

The Court issued an order on March 26 that temporarily postpones the carrying out of eviction orders against New Mexicans who provide a judge with evidence that they are unable to pay their rent on a mobile home lot. This action offers the same protections against the loss of housing during the public health emergency that the Court provided to tenants of apartments and certain other places of residence in an order issued March 24.

The governor has directed New Mexicans to stay at home, except under limited circumstances. Temporarily preventing evictions from being carried out because of a person’s inability to pay rent will help families and individuals follow the governor’s directive to remain in their homes to help guard against the spread of COVID-19.

If a landlord begins an eviction proceeding, the renter will receive a summons that notifies them of the lawsuit and explains that they can participate in a hearing before a judge. Court hearings are conducted by video or telephone during the public health emergency, unless the parties ask to appear in person. To stop an eviction, renters – whether of land in a mobile home park or an apartment – must participate in the hearing and provide the judge with evidence of their current inability to pay their rent. If sufficient evidence is provided by the tenant, judges will stay the execution of writs of restitution that property owners can obtain and give to law enforcement to force the removal of a tenant.

If you would like assistance with your eviction proceeding please contact:

  • New Mexico Legal Aid – 1-833-LGL-HELP (1-833-545-4357)
  • Senior Citizens Law Office – (505) 265-2300, (Serves residents of Bernalillo, Sandoval, Valencia and Torrance counties who are 60 or older.
  • Legal Resources for the Elderly Program, 800-876-6657 statewide; 505-797-6005 in Albuquerque, (Statewide free legal helpline for NM residents 55 and older.)

The Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court offers a free mediation program for people involved in active landlord-tenant cases in that court. The program starts May 11. A trained facilitator will work with landlords and tenants to try to develop a business agreement beneficial to both sides. Click here for more details. People wishing to participate in the Landlord-Tenant Settlement Program should contact the Metro Court’s Mediation Division at (505) 841-8167.

 

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