Mitchell to begin term as district judge Dec. 15

Thomas Garcia

After serving as an attorney in Quay County for nearly three decades, Albert J. Mitchell Jr. , 49. will soon be serving the residents of Quay, De Baca and Harding counties as the new Tenth Judicial District Court Judge.

Question: When does your term begin?

Answer: I will be sworn in at 3 p.m. on Dec. 15 at the Territorial Room at the Tucumcari Convention Center by Chief Judge William Lang, 2nd Judicial District Court.
I’m prepared to come to work, listen to the people’s cases and explain my on the case.
People need to have the opportunity to have their cases heard when they are ready. The court is here for the convenience of the people.

What will happen to your private practice after Dec. 15?

It will be closed down effective Dec. 15. It is a bit hectic around here, We are trying to close out and complete 24 years of practice in the next two weeks. I have practiced law in Quay County every year that I have lived here.

Do you think that serving as an attorney in this court system gives you an advantage on the bench?
Without a doubt. Serving as an attorney, I have tried almost every type of case that has gone before this district court.

Before you earned your law degree from the University of New Mexico(1984) you attended Stanford and received a degree in Mechanical Engineering(1980) what made you choose law?

I had decided by my senior year at Stanford – with my degree nearly in hand – that I would attend law school. I have always liked solving problems and working with people, human problems are some of the hardest problems to solve.

How long is your term as district judge and what will be your annual salary.
The term runs for six years then I would need to seek re-election.
The annual salary set by the State of New Mexico, for a district judge is $109,000 a year.

When will you begin hearing cases?
On Tuesday, the day following my swearing in, I will be hearing a court case in Harding County, on Wednesday I will be in court at Las Vegas and back in Quay County on Thursday for court.
People that go to court don’t like to wait to have their cases heard. I will do all that I can to ensure that the people receive a timely hearing.

How will you manage the jurisdiction of all three counties?

I plan on traveling whenever the case calls for it. I will try to plan a full-day schedule when I travel to Harding or De Baca counties. In the future I will have set days in the month when I will travel to those counties.

What are some of the issues and policies you would like to address as the new district judge?
We have to move local cases forward quickly, criminal and civil cases alike. It should not take nine months to get a hearing.
I have no problem working late and scheduling cases later in the day. I also plan to work with the State Legislature for additional funding to keep the court open longer hours for the peoples’ convenience.
We are the smallest but most efficient district court in the state. A budget shortfall at the government level could affect our court, but I will do all that I can to have this court open for the people.

What is your goal for the first year goal?
This is a brand new job that I have never done before. I need to learn the job before I make any changes, the most important thing is to know the law, hear the cases and make a decision.