BY KAREN HOLMES, J.D.
I am an attorney supporting Catherine Taylor for Magistrate Judge. From the outset, it’s important to note that I write this letter to the editor as one concerned with preserving the impartiality of our judicial system, and as an attorney who has no conflict of interest in this election nor will ever appear as an attorney in the Magistrate Court. In this letter, I address how licensure is not as relevant in this case as some may believe, and how a judicial candidate’s demeanor and attention to ethics is paramount to the role.
Recently, Catherine Taylor’s experience and qualifications for Magistrate Judge have been called into question, with some focus on the fact that she is not “licensed” in New Mexico. As an attorney myself, I know that the term “license” has a specific connotation for the public. When we think of an attorney not being “licensed,” we immediately think they are somehow not qualified, in general, to practice law. In law, however, after a certain point, licensure can take a back seat to one’s experience. Consequently, there have been debates in the legal community about having alternative licensure approaches so attorneys do not have to go through the arduous process of taking exams every time they move. A recent compromise has been “reciprocity,” where attorneys can waive into a state without taking the bar exam if they meet other requirements. So, to argue that a candidate is more qualified simply because they have paid fees and jumped through the hoops (or perhaps just waived in), is a false premise.
Mrs. Taylor is more than qualified. Not having an New Mexico Bar number to her name should not dissuade anyone from voting for her. Her experience in the courtroom as a Deputy District Attorney and ethics attorney in California, and her involvement in the New Mexico judicial system via her Teen Court responsibilities prove she is competent and capable.
She has extensive experience as a prosecutor in California and a solid background in ethics with her work as a trial attorney for the California State Bar. Her experience in the realm of legal ethics is impossible to overemphasize. A judge absolutely must keep the ethics rules at the forefront of their mind at all times. Close consideration of judicial ethics is of utmost importance in order to uphold the impartiality of the judiciary. A judge’s commitment to impartiality is key to ensuring that federal and state constitutional rights are protected. A commitment to judicial and legal ethics underscores every single aspect of a judge’s position. Of course, no one can be 100% impartial, but a keen awareness of one’s biases and an intention to set them aside is critical to being a good judge.
As an attorney, I believe that maintaining and cultivating a safe community means ensuring that our constitutional rights to a fair and unbiased judiciary are protected. And that is accomplished by choosing a judge who will come to each case with an open mind, able to objectively consider the facts and accurately apply the relevant laws; A judge who pledges to give each litigant or accused an independent evaluation, free of preconceived ideas about how to rule on the case, and one who will regard all parties equally. A judge who knows from experience that challenging cases are not cut and dry and often require creative solutions to attain the best outcomes.
Catherine Taylor is the candidate who has conducted herself in a manner worthy of this judicial role.