BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Los Alamos Probate Judge Michael Redondo is unopposed for reelection to the position he was appointed to in 2019. Judge Redondo spoke at the Oct. 3 League of Women Voters Candidate Forum and answered several questions. He explained some changes he has made in how he operates the office to make contact with those in need of his services more flexible. His comments are presented below:
I grew up here in Los Alamos and have been involved in a number of different ways of helping to support my community. In May 2019, I was appointed to the position of Probate Judge to fill a vacancy and have served as Probate Judge for a little over three years. I am pleased to be able to do that and I hope to be able to continue doing that. One of the things as well as serving as Probate Judge, judges in the state of New Mexico are permitted to perform wedding. They are not required to do so. I am committed to provide that service for anyone who comes. I also speak Spanish and have been performing weddings in Spanish as well for those who want that service. I just wanted to point out that while it’s not required of judges, that’s one thing that we have judges who are providing that service as well. I am running unopposed to maintain my seat.
A probate judge is not required to be a licensed attorney. Are there any drawbacks to this?
I am not a licensed attorney. I have a Master’s degree in Community & Regional Planning and I did take a few law classes in land use law. I have some understanding of that. It does not quite apply to a state law. The thing about the probate position is that the legal part while it is important to learn and understand the legal positions with the state law, state law is a very narrow part of the law in general and I think the position is one where you are more of a gatekeeper than a decision-maker. The most important thing that the probate judge does is figure out whether a decision needs to be made, and if it does, transfer the case to District Court. I do not think it’s necessarily a drawback, especially in some of our smaller counties where for example, Harding County has less than 1,000 residents, it might be difficult to find a licensed attorney to take the position and so especially in rural counties, it would be a drawback to require that the probate judge be a licensed attorney.
What training do you receive for this office?
The New Mexico Judicial Training Office, a portion of UNM’s Law School that is funded by the state to provide education to judges – I attend all of the trainings that they offer for the probate judges. They do a very extensive training usually in February as well as some other trainings as well. They do very extensive training that I think covers most of what the probate judge needs to know.
Have you made any changes to this position?
Yes, so the Probate Judge position is a part-time position. It pays very little so previous judges have generally had office hours for about three hours a week usually on one day a week. I have changed that in that I do hours by appointment especially during COVID. I actually do my consultations over the phone. When things need to be done in person I try to make appointments. I try to be very flexible of when those can be made. Many people will have a loved one who lives in Los Alamos and passes away and they need to see the Probate Judge. They live elsewhere and come here to Los Alamos and are only here for three to four days so if they’re not here during the day I would have had my office hours, I try to be very open so that I can open to meet with them flexibly when they are available. That is one of the things I have changed – probably the biggest one.