Thursday, October 30, 2008

Judge Wingenroth Unclear About Metro Court

In a forum in Anthony last night, Judge Kent Wingenroth was unable to answer the question, "what is a Metro court?" except to say that it represented a "metrolizing" of the county. Perhaps because he is unclear about what a Metro court is, he was also unable to answer a direct question as to whether he is in favor of a Metro court for Dona Ana county or not. At one point he said he was an "advocate" of the magistrate court system, but at another point he suggested a Metro court would be "OK."

A Metro court, according to New Mexico statutes, is an option counties may choose when they reach a population of 200,000. This entails merging county and municipal courts into one court system and under existing statutes this would also require that judges in Metro court be attorneys and that the court become a court of record. The only county with a Metro court in New Mexico is Bernalillo county, which has had a Metro court for nearly 30 years. It is anticipated that in the 2010 census Dona Ana county will record a population surpassing 200,000. The League of Women Voters has been quietly advocating for a Metro Court for some time.


AHD said...

I don't think many New Mexicans understand the concept of a metro court. While the addition of a metro court would be more efficient for citizens it would also be difficult for residents of Sunland Park, Anthony, Hatch, etc. to make the trip to Las Cruces. Would there be a way to keep satellite offices in those communities?


Jose Z. Garcia said...

As I understand it, there is no provision for satellite offices, as it now stands. The Metro Court in Albuquerque does not have satellite offices. The Metro Court would cost considerably more than magistrate court, for many reasons. In Albuquerque the Metro Court building alone is a lavish palace of a building (it was the scene of the crime that brought down former Sen. Manny Aragon, who pleaded guilty along with several others in a scheme that skimmed over $4 million in inflated invoices) that cost $84 million. Additional salary and staff costs, and costs associated with making it a court of record would add even more. So I wouldn't count on satellite offices.