Serving the High Plains

Six people vying for magistrate position

A total of six candidates have applied for the Quay County magistrate judge position, ranging from a retired state police officer to a Carlsbad police detective to a current Tucumcari municipal judge.

The Quay County Sun received information about the candidates Thursday after filing an open-records request with Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office.

The candidates’ applications for the position were lightly redacted to withhold sensitive information such as birth date, home address, Social Security and driver’s license numbers, personal email address and personal phone numbers.

Previous magistrate judge Timothy O’Quinn resigned his post by email, effective immediately, in early April after serving 4 1/2 years there. He gave no reason for his departure.

Here are the candidates, listed by alphabetical order by surname:

• Chester Bobbitt of San Jon, who served as a New Mexico State Police investigator for 20 years until his retirement in 2019. He also was a Tucumcari Police officer for several years during the 1990s. His wife, Patricia, is a clerk in the magistrate court’s office.

• Paula Chacon of Tucumcari, who is listed in her application as financial specialist and HR representative for the 10th Judicial Circuit, based in Tucumcari. She also worked in the magistrate court in Tucumcari for 13 years.

• Noreen Hendrickson of Tucumcari, who has been Tucumcari’s municipal judge for more than two years. She previously worked with the New Mexico State Police and the Quay County DWI Program.

• Patricia Jean Lopez of Eddy County, who is a Carlsbad Police Department detective. She previously was a detective sergeant during her 23 years with the Tucumcari Police Department.

• William Vassall Makell of Baltimore, who lists previous employment as a litigation paralegal at several law offices.

• Brianna Nichols of Tijeras, a background investigator in Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court in Albuquerque. She also worked for the 2nd Judicial District Court and Santa Fe magistrate court.

As for when the governor would fill the post is anyone’s guess. Tenth Judicial District Judge Albert Mitchell Jr. said in an interview in April that from his experience, the duration for a governor to fill a judge vacancy can vary widely — from a few days to as long as 18 months.

O'Quinn was appointed in November 2016 as magistrate judge by then-Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. He succeeded retiring magistrate judge David Joel Garnett.

O'Quinn was retained in June 2018 after easily winning a three-way race the Republican primary. He defeated the runner-up by more than a 2-to-1 margin. O'Quinn was unopposed in the general election.