Rep. Andy Nunez has introduced a bill to raise the county population size required to trigger a transition toward a metro court system. If signed into law the bill would effectively delay the creation of a metro court in Dona Ana County until after the 2020 census.
It is no accident that the bill was introduced by Rep. Nunez, whose constituency extends to Hatch and Garfield, 40 and 50 miles away from Las Cruces. Under the present system magistrate courts have offices in Hatch and Anthony, for the convenience of persons accused of misdemeanors. But if a bill sponsored this year by Rep. Joni Gutierrez (HB 275) becomes law citizens in the outlying communities of Garfield, Hatch, Rodey, Rincon, Radium Springs, Sunland Park, Chamberino, La Union, Santa Teresa, Chaparral, Anthony, Mesquite, Vado, Berino, La Mesa, and San Miguel--more than half the county's population--would all have to commute all the way to the courthouse in Las Cruces.
Many of Mr. Nunez's constituents from the northern part of the county are displeased by the surprise introduction this year of HB 275, creating a metro court this year. Under existing law counties are forced automatically to shift to a metro court system when the U.S. census indicates the population has reached 200,000. Thus, the shift would begin with the census of 2010. However, Rep. Gutierrez's HB 275 would create a metro court in Dona Ana County this year. HB 292 would render her bill inoperative, since it would raise the population size needed to trigger the creation of a metro court from 200,000 to 350,000. For more information see my blogs here this morning and yesterday.