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Constitutional Amendment 1: Potential Changes to Appeals Process


>>THERE ARE OTHER ITEMS ON
THE BALLOT THIS YEAR, AS WELL. WE’VE ALREADY TALKED ABOUT
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT NO. 2, WHICH WOULD PAVE THE
WAY FOR AN INDEPENDENT ETHICS COMMISSION, BUT
THERE’S ALSO CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT NO. 1, WHICH HAS
TO DO WITH POTENTIAL CHANGES TO HOW MINOR COURT CASES
LIKE TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS ARE APPEALED IN NEW MEXICO. I RECENTLY SAT DOWN WITH AN
EXPERT TO FIND OUT HOW THOSE CHANGES WOULD WORK, AND WHY
THE AMENDMENT IS JUST THE FIRST STEP IN THE PROCESS.>>JOINING US TODAY IS ARTIE
PEPIN. ARTIE IS THE DIRECTOR OF THE
ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF THE COURTS. WELCOME.>>THANK YOU.>>THANKS FOR BEING HERE. LET’S START VERY BRISKLY ON
WHAT THIS AMENDMENT WOULD DO. IF I UNDERSTAND THIS
CORRECTLY, BASICALLY IT WOULD COMPLETELY CHANGE THE
WAY CASES IN PROBATE, MAGISTRATE AND METRO COURTS
ARE APPEALED. HOW IS THAT SITUATION DONE
NOW? AND WE’LL GET INTO WHAT
WOULD CHANGE WITH THE AMENDMENT, BUT HOW IS THE
SITUATION HANDLED CURRENTLY?>>CURRENTLY THE CASES THAT
COME OUT OF THE LIMITED JURISDICTION COURTS —
THEY’RE CALLED INFERIOR COURTS IN THE
CONSTITUTION — GO TO A DISTRICT COURT, A TRIAL
COURT, ON APPEAL, INCLUDING THE CASES THAT COME OUT OF
METROPOLITAN COURT HERE IN ALBUQUERQUE THAT ARE HEARD
ON THE RECORD. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE OR DWI
CASES. AND THEN FROM THE DISTRICT
COURT, THEY CAN BE APPEALED TO THE COURT OF APPEALS AND
THEN ULTIMATELY TO THE SUPREME COURT.>>NOW, WHAT’S THE
DIFFERENCE — LET ME ASK YOU THIS FIRST. A LOT OF APPEALS, AS WE
KNOW, GO FIRST TO THE DISTRICT COURT, AND THEN FOR
INTERMEDIATE RULINGS, THIS WOULD ALLOW CASES TO GO
STRAIGHT TO THE COURT OF APPEALS INSTEAD. AM I STATING THAT CORRECTLY?>>YES.>>OKAY, LET’S FLUSH THAT
OUT A LITTLE BIT. WHAT’S THE CHANGES THAT
HAPPEN HERE?>>THE CONSTITUTION RIGHT
NOW MAKES IT IMPOSSIBLE TO SEND THOSE CASES DIRECTLY TO
THE COURT OF APPEALS, EVEN WHEN THEY’RE ON THE RECORD
CASES. YOU CAN HAVE A JURY TRIAL
AND THEY CAN’T GO TO THE COURT OF APPEALS, BECAUSE
THE COURT OF APPEALS AND THE LIMITED JURISDICTION COURTS
WERE CREATED AFTER THE CONSTITUTION CAME INTO
EXISTENCE. THAT’S WHY IT’S WRITTEN THAT
WAY. BUT BECAUSE WE HAVE RECORD
CASES, FOR EXAMPLE, IN ALBUQUERQUE, IT MAKES A LOT
MORE SENSE FOR THE CASES TO SKIP THE DISTRICT COURT AND
GO UP TO THE COURT OF APPEALS. NOW, THE AMENDMENT, ITSELF,
DOESN’T REQUIRE THAT THAT HAPPEN. IT JUST ALLOWS THE
LEGISLATURE TO ENACT A STATUTE THAT CHANGES THE
STATUTORY WAY THAT THE APPEALS FLOW. THE STATUTE THAT EXISTS
RIGHT NOW FOLLOWS THE CONSTITUTION AND HAS THEM GO
FROM METRO COURT TO THE DISTRICT COURT AND TO THE
COURT OF APPEALS.>>AND AGAIN, IF I HAVE THIS
CORRECT, THE CHANGE WOULD BE YOU COULD SKIP THAT PROCESS
AND APPELLANTS COULD GO OVER DISTRICT COURT AND GO
STRAIGHT TO THE COURT OF APPEALS.>>RIGHT. SO THE MISDEMEANOR CASES AND
THE CIVIL CASES THAT ARE ON THE RECORD, WHICH ARE CASES
INVOLVING $10,000 OR LESS IN METRO COURT, FOR EXAMPLE,
WOULD GO TO THE COURT OF APPEALS JUST LIKE THE CASES
THAT ARE HEARD IN DISTRICT COURT THAT INVOLVE $100,000
OR FELONIES, KIDNAPPINGS. THEY GO TO THE COURT OF
APPEALS. SO ALL OF THEM COULD GO TO
THE COURT OF APPEALS, IF THAT’S WHAT THE LEGISLATURE
DECIDES.>>GOTCHA. AND DOES THIS HELP OUT WITH
THE BACKLOG THAT WE SEE IN DISTRICT COURTS AROUND OUR
STATE? INSTEAD OF HAVING TO MUCK
WITH CASES THAT ARE UNDER THAT THRESHOLD YOU JUST
MENTIONED, DOES THIS FREE UP THOSE FOLKS MARKEDLY?>>IT CERTAINLY WILL REDUCE
THE NUMBER OF CASES THAT THE DISTRICT COURT HAS TO HANDLE
BECAUSE IN ADDITION TO THEIR REGULAR TRIAL LOAD, WHICH IS
HEAVY, SUBSTANTIAL, THEY HAVE TO DO THESE APPEALS. AND THE COURT OF APPEALS,
THAT’S WHAT THEY’RE DESIGNED FOR. THERE’S TEN JUDGES THERE,
AND THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO DO APPEALS, AND THEY’RE VERY
GOOD AT IT.>>WHERE DID THIS IDEA COME
FROM ORIGINALLY? WHAT WAS THE IMPETUS HERE? WAS THERE A SPECIFIC CASE,
OR WAS THERE A SPECIFIC SERIES?>>NO. THE JUDICIARY WENT THROUGH A
PROCESS WE CALL RE-ENGINEERING A FEW YEARS
AGO AND LOOKED AT EVERYTHING WE DO AND OTHER WAYS WE
COULD DO IT BETTER. THIS WAS ONE OF THOSE
THINGS. IT’S NOT A MAJOR THING, IT’S
NOT THE BIGGEST THING IN THE WORLD, BUT IT’S IMPORTANT,
WE THINK, AND THE IDEA SURFACED AS PART OF THAT
RE-ENGINEERING FOCUS. WE WENT TO THE LEGISLATURE,
AND WE’RE GLAD THAT IN 2017 IT GOT TRACTION ON THIS. THERE WAS A CASE THAT WENT
TO THE SUPREME COURT IN 2016 ON THIS EXACT ISSUE, AND
THEY SAID, UNLESS THE CONSTITUTION IS CHANGED, THE
CASES GO TO THE DISTRICT COURT BEFORE THEY COME TO
THE COURT OF APPEALS. AND YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO GO
BOTH PLACES ON A MISDEMEANOR, ON A DWI,
WHEREAS YOU ONLY HAVE THE RIGHT TO GO TO ONE COURT ON
A FELONY, LIKE A KIDNAPPING OR SOMETHING.>>IT’S INTERESTING THAT
YOU JUST SAID THAT, BECAUSE DOES THIS NOT HAVE THE
POTENTIAL TO SHIFT SOME OF THE BURDENS THAT THE
DISTRICT COURTS ARE STRUGGLING WITH NOW TO THE
APPELLANT COURT? IS THERE A POTENTIAL THAT
ONE LESS BURDEN ENDS UP SOMEONE ELSE’S BURDEN DOWN
THE ROAD?>>YES. THAT’S THE INTENDED EFFECT,
IN FACT. IF THE LEGISLATURE PASSES A
STATUTE AND THE GOVERNOR SIGNS IT, IT WOULD SHIFT
SOME WORK FROM THE DISTRICT COURT TO THE COURT OF
APPEALS. BUT THERE ARE A COUPLE OF
GOOD REASONS FOR THAT TO HAPPEN. FIRST OF ALL, THE DISTRICT
COURTS, THEY’RE DESIGNED TO DO TRIALS. YOU GO DOWN TO THE DISTRICT
COURT AND YOU’LL SEE JUDGES MAKING RULINGS ON MOTIONS
AND CONDUCTING TRIALS AND IMPANELING JURIES AND THINGS
LIKE THAT. THESE CASES ARE CASES WHERE
THERE’S A RECORD, IT’S ALREADY BEEN DECIDED, AND
THE WAY YOU LOOK AT AN APPEAL IS VERY DIFFERENT
THAN THE WAY YOU LOOK AT A TRIAL. THE RULES ARE DIFFERENT, THE
STANDARD YOU APPLY IS DIFFERENT, AND THAT’S
EXACTLY WHAT THE FOLKS UP THE HILL HERE IN ALBUQUERQUE
AT THE COURT OF APPEALS AND IN SANTA FE, THAT’S EXACTLY
WHAT THEY DO EVERY DAY. THEY APPLY AN APPELLANT
STANDARD OF REVIEW. THEY LOOK AT WHETHER THE
JUDGE WAS RIGHT OR WRONG IN MAKING A DECISION ABOUT
SUPPRESSING EVIDENCE OR SOMETHING. IT’S A VERY DIFFERENT WORK,
AND SOME WORK WILL MOVE FROM DISTRICT COURT TO THE COURT
OF APPEALS, BUT THEY’RE SUITED FOR THAT.>>BUT AGAIN, COULD IT
POTENTIALLY OVERBURDEN THE COURT OF APPEALS, THIS
SITUATION?>>WE CERTAINLY DON’T THINK
SO. IF THERE WERE A NEED FOR
MORE RESOURCES IN THE COURT OF APPEALS BECAUSE OF THIS,
AND WE CERTAINLY DON’T THINK SO WITH REGARD TO THE CASES
THAT COME OUT OF THE METROPOLITAN COURT, WHICH IS
THE MOST LIKELY PLACE THE LEGISLATURE WOULD MAKE A
CHANGE, PROBABLY THERE WOULDN’T NEED TO BE ANY MORE
RESOURCES. BUT IF THERE WERE, THERE ARE
STAFF FOLKS, ATTORNEYS, IN THE SECOND JUDICIAL DISTRICT
WHO DO THESE APPEALS, MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS OR REVIEW
THEM FOR THE JUDGES, AND WE COULD SHIFT THOSE RESOURCES
TO THE COURT OF APPEALS IF THERE WAS A NEED THERE. BUT WE DON’T THINK — IT’S
NOT A HUGE VOLUME OF CASES. AND BECAUSE THE COURT OF
APPEALS DOES THIS ROUTINELY, IT’S EASIER FOR THEM TO DO
IT THAN IT IS FOR THE DISTRICT COURT.>>BUT IT IS A DIFFERENT
PROCESS, CERTAINLY.>>OH, YES.>>FOR THE APPELLANT COURT,
IT’S NOT THINGS LIKE RETRIALS OR ANYTHING. SO, AGAIN, JUST AS A LAY
PERSON HERE, THAT DOES NOT CAUSE ANY PROBLEMS
POTENTIALLY FOR THE APPELLANT COURT FOLKS THAT,
YOU KNOW, THEIR PROCESSES ARE QUITE DIFFERENT, AND
THEY HAVE THINGS LANDING ON THEIR LAP THAT THEY HAVE TO
DEAL WITH?>>NO, BECAUSE IT’S THE KIND
OF THINGS THAT COME TO THEM ANYWAY. FOR EXAMPLE, THE SAME CASE
THAT GETS APPEALED TO THE DISTRICT COURT, THAT THE
DISTRICT COURT FINALLY DECIDES ON, THAT CASE GETS
APPEALED TO THE COURT OF APPEALS. IT’S EXACTLY THE SAME AS THE
ONE THAT GOT APPEALED TO THE DISTRICT COURT, BECAUSE THE
RECORD THAT COMES FROM METRO COURT GOES TO THE DISTRICT
COURT, AND THEY DO THEIR THING WITH IT, AND THEN ANY
PARTY IN THE CASE CAN THEN APPEAL THAT TO THE COURT OF
APPEALS. SO IT’S THE EXACT SAME CASE,
IT’S JUST WE’RE ASKING THE DISTRICT COURT TO DO TWO
DIFFERENT THINGS AS OPPOSED TO THE APPELLANT COURT DOING
ONE THING, WHICH IS WHAT IT DOES ROUTINELY.>>BUT A NEW SITUATION
SOMETIMES REQUIRES NEW TRAINING, A NEW WAY OF
LOOKING AT THINGS. THIS COSTS MONEY, THIS COSTS
TIME. DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE
LEGISLATURE COULD POTENTIALLY BE IN A POSITION
TO SEE THOSE ISSUES, AS WELL, AT THE SAME TIME
THEY’RE LOOKING AT THIS?>>CERTAINLY THE LEGISLATURE
WILL ASK US. IF WE PROPOSE TO THE
LEGISLATURE, OR IF THE LEGISLATURE SAYS, WELL, NOW
THAT THE PEOPLE IN THEIR WISDOM HAVE ADOPTED THIS
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT, WE SHOULD MAKE A CHANGE IN
ALBUQUERQUE FOR THE METRO COURT CASES ON THE RECORD. WHAT KIND OF RESOURCES ARE
YOU GOING TO NEED? ARE YOU GOING TO BE COMING
TO US SAYING YOU NEED ANOTHER STAFF ATTORNEY? HEAVEN FORBID YOU NEED A NEW
JUDGE. WE’VE LOOKED AT THE DATA AND
WE’VE EXAMINED THE WORKLOAD OF BOTH THE DISTRICT COURT
AND THE METRO COURT AND THE COURT OF APPEALS, AND WE’RE
PRETTY CONFIDENT THE ANSWER WOULD BE, NO. BUT WE’LL GIVE THEM AN
HONEST ANSWER. THAT’S OUR JOB.
AND IT DOESN’T DO US ANY GOOD NOT TO GIVE THEM AN
HONEST ANSWER. BUT WE REALLY THINK NOT. BUT IF WE DID, AND IF THEY
PROPOSE A STATUTE MAYBE IN A WAY WE DIDN’T ANTICIPATE AND
IT DID REQUIRE SOMETHING NEW, WE WOULD TELL THEM,
YES, WE’LL NEED WHATEVER IT IS WE WOULD NEED.>>MY LAST QUESTION, AND
SORT OF AN OBVIOUS ONE, AGAIN, A LAYPERSON’S
QUESTION — YOU HAVE TO FORGIVE ME A LITTLE BIT —
BUT THE JUDICIAL BRANCH IS CERTAINLY ITS OWN SEPARATE
FORM OF GOVERNMENT, BUT WE’VE GOT ANOTHER BRANCH OF
GOVERNMENT DECIDING WHAT YOU FOLKS CAN AND CAN’T DO,
MEANING THE LEGISLATURE. FOR A LOT OF FOLKS, THAT
SEEMS KIND OF ODD. ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH HOW
THIS IS — I MEAN, IT’S OUR PROCESS, IT’S WHAT WE HAVE
TO DO, CERTAINLY, BUT ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH THE
LEGISLATURE BEING ABLE TO HANDLE THIS PROCESS AND COME
OUT WITH AN APPROPRIATE RESULT?>>ABSOLUTELY. WE TALK A LOT ABOUT THE
INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIAL BRANCH, BUT THAT KIND OF
INDEPENDENCE IS THE INDEPENDENCE TO MAKE
DECISIONS BASED ON THE LAW, THE CONSTITUTION, WITHOUT
INTERFERENCE FROM THE OTHER BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT. WHEN IT COMES TO
APPROPRIATING MONEY FOR THE JUDICIAL BRANCH, OR
DETERMINING IF WE GET ANOTHER JUDGE HERE OR THERE,
THOSE KINDS OF THINGS, ALLOCATING RESOURCES, IT’S
PERFECTLY APPROPRIATE FOR THE LEGISLATURE TO MAKE THAT
DETERMINATION. AND BECAUSE THE CONSTITUTION
SETS OUT THE KIND OF FRAMEWORK IN WHICH THIS ALL
WORKS, WE’RE VERY COMFORTABLE WITH US — THAT
IS, THE JUDICIAL BRANCH — HAVING TO GO TO THE
LEGISLATURE AND SAY, NOW THAT THE AMENDMENT ALLOWS
YOU TO DO THIS, WE THINK THIS WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA
FOR YOU TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THAT AUTHORITY GIVEN TO YOU
BY THE PEOPLE WHO VOTED FOR THE AMENDMENT. AND CERTAINLY IN TALKING
WITH SENATOR WIRTH AND REPRESENTATIVE MAESTAS, THE
SPONSORS OF THE AMENDMENT, AND I THINK THAT THEY WOULD
BE INCLINED TO DO SOMETHING REASONABLE. AND IF THEY WEREN’T, OKAY,
WE’LL CONTINUE WITH THE SYSTEM WE HAVE. IT’S A GOOD IDEA TO HAVE
BALANCED AUTHORITIES AMONG THE BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT.>>THAT MAKES SENSE. ARTIE PEPIN, THANK SO MUCH
FOR COMING IN.>>MY PLEASURE TO BE HERE.>>IT’S AN IMPORTANT
AMENDMENT, WE WANTED TO GET THE INFORMATION, AND YOU
SUPPLIED IT. THANK YOU SO MUCH.

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