Elizabeth Allen, candidate for Los Alamos Municipal Judge, addresses the audience at the Aug. 22 American Legion candidates forum. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Candidate for Los Alamos Municipal Judge Elizabeth Allen believes running for the local judicial position is unique. Speaking at two candidates forums in the last week, Allen said she can get up and list all her qualifications but that running for judge is a very unique experience and situation.
“We have a lot of restrictions on what we can and can’t say so you may not hear a standard platform like you might hear from the County Council candidates,” she said.
Allen said she has several different rols in the community. She owns two businesses in town – her own law firm and an inn. She is on three boards – Family Strengths, PEEC and the Lodgers Tax Board. She and her husband Matt have three children and she said she teaches at UNM-LA and works at the Los Alamos Teen Center occasionally.
“Through all these different things I do in the community, I realized that I love to serve the community. You can’t say no too many time, right? I really felt my skills were probably best served in the courtroom,” Allen said.
She said she has a very unique background as an attorney in that she has worked as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney.
“I think my desire to serve and where it all started from is that I’m the youngest of 10 children and so of course, I thought I’ll just do drama in college so that people will notice me,” she said. “But what it actually spurred is that one day when I went to college, (I went to a college with 40,000 people) the halls were silent, no one was speaking and people were crying. I walked into the student center and they had these giant TVs set up and it was the planes hitting the twin towers in New York – it was 9-11.”
Allen said she was terrified but she was also motivated to do something.
“I didn’t understand this world. I didn’t understand what was happening and so I went and actually changed my major that day to political science. That sort of drove my path to going to law school,” she said.
Allen said it seemed like a giant TV screen again changed how she viewed the world when she was prosecuting a domestic violence case and was was trying to prove the elements that she needed to prove, to show that the defendant was guilty.
“In response to anything I would say anything , the defense attorney would stand up with a giant picture of a broken TV and say, ‘But the wife broke the TV.’ And I knew he was doing this to confuse the jury. But I had evidence – I had audio and if I could just have the jury listen to the audio they would hear that the TV wasn’t even talked about that night, that it was just being used right now to try and confuse the jury,” she said.
Allen said then she went to enter the audio into evidence, the judge said, “We’ve been here a long time, I’m tired, I want to go home. No more evidence, we’re just going to let the jury decide”.
“So the jury found the defendant not guilty. I remember going home that day and thinking this is not the justice system that I thought I was working in. I don’t understand what is happening. I wanted to give up, but I didn’t. I got up the next day and I fought for the next victim,” she said.
Allen said when she became a defense attorney, she started in child protection court where she represented children that were removed from their parents and put in foster care as well as some parents. She said she then did appeal work and does a lot of estate planning, real estate contracts and criminal defense.
“By doing all these different kinds of law, by being in front of all these different kinds of judges (I’ve been in front of more than 20 different judges), I have a very good understanding of the needs of the people who are before the judge, the things that they want to hear, how they need to be listened to and I have a good understanding of the constitutional requirements that have to be met,” she said. “That’s is why I am running for municipal judge – because I believe that the skills that I have could best serve the community in that way.”