Editor’s note: Candidates’ responses are printed as received with no editing.
G. Robert Cook
What are your qualifications and experience for the position you seek? I have been in the legal field for 41 years, starting when I was a teenager. I possess a Bachelor’s degree in Justice Administration, and have heard literally thousands of cases as Rio Rancho’s municipal judge for 15+ years. I have managed large numbers of employees prior to being elected judge in 2010.
Have you ever been convicted of a felony or DWI? If yes, please explain. No
What should be the municipal judge’s role in public safety? The judge’s role is incidental. If the executive branch (police, code enforcement, animal control) perform their duties and present cases in which a conviction results, the court should impose appropriate consequences to deter future violations of the law. Driver Improvement School, First Offender’s programs, etc. serve to assist in public safety.
How many hours per week would you expect to work as municipal judge? A judge’s office workload is determined by the cases filed. So, it may vary. But, I receive phone calls from the Police department for Probable Cause determinations every weekend, have had police officers at my home in the early hours to have warrants approved, and receive phone calls in the middle of the night from officers needing court services. A judge doesn’t just work normal office hours.
If elected, how would you determine appropriate sentencing for people convicted? Several factors must be considered when sentencing. A prior record of similar behavior, or other illegal behavior should be considered. The severity of the crime should be considered. Street Racing, for example, is a recently growing problem, so I have started a program to address the problem at no cost to the city. Very simply, it involves “booting” of the defendant’s vehicle and though in its early stages, appears to be very successful.
What should the budgetary priorities of the municipal court be? The municipal court has a small budget (less than 2% of the overall city budget) without much wiggle room. But, employees’ salaries are the largest part of the budget and assuring they are paid market wages is always a challenge. Paying the court appointed attorney for services provided to persons unable to afford an attorney is another responsibility of the court, accounting for $100,000-$200,000 per year. The courtroom was recently remodeled (on a very economical budget), so capital needs are not in the near future.
What would you like to change or enhance about the municipal court, and how would you make that happen? The court is constantly evolving to meet current trends. I started a First Offenders Program several years ago in response to young offenders (primarily) making mistakes I wouldn’t expect them to repeat. I recently started a program to assist elderly and disabled defendants in bringing their properties into Code compliance. As mentioned above, the Street Racing initiative should deter the very dangerous high speed racing we’re seeing today.
If elected, what would your goals be for the next four years? My goal will be to exit COVID successfully and return to in-person hearings for all cases. Current virtual hearings are functional, but hardly ideal. I intend to work with the Court Administrator to determine if court employees are paid comparable wages to other courts, and adjust accordingly if they are not. I hope to continue to build on the relationship with the Mayor’s office to assure budgetary needs are met.
How can people reach you if they have more questions? Email is best: [email protected]
Jonathan L. Muniz
What are your qualifications and experience for the position you seek? I have a Bachelors and Master’s degree in Social Work. I was an intern at Sandoval County 13th Judicial District Court pretrial services where I was able to gain valuable court room experience. I was also a volunteer with the 2nd Judicial District Court as a Victim Advocate. My previous work experience reflects 18 years in the field of mental health, specifically substance abuse prevention.
Have you ever been convicted of a felony or DWI? If yes, please explain. No, I have never been convicted of a felony or DWI.
What should be the municipal judge’s role in public safety? I believe the role of the Municipal Judge in public safety is to uphold the integrity of the local judiciary while supporting law enforcement and local community members in a fair and non-biased manner so as not to lose public confidence.
How many hours per week would you expect to work as municipal judge? I expect to serve my community on a full-time basis, whether it’s in or out of the courtroom. I don’t believe that a Municipal Court Judge is really ever off the clock. There’s a lot a Municipal Judge can do out of the courtroom in support of and to strengthen their community.
If elected, how would you determine appropriate sentencing for people convicted? The purpose of sentencing is to hold the offender accountable. I would look at penalties for the crime they are convicted of while taking into consideration the person’s criminal history and severity of the crime. If there is a victim involved than I would examine damages that need to be addressed.
What should the budgetary priorities of the municipal court be? I believe that the budgetary priorities should include: ensuring the Municipal Court is fully staffed, community programs such as driver improvement school and community service are funded. I would also like to see how we can add more services for the community, especially for our elderly and our youth members.
What would you like to change or enhance about the municipal court, and how would you make that happen? I would like to strengthen cultural competency within the court using my education and experience in Social Work to accomplish this. I am interested in creating youth initiatives such as internships so high school students can gain experience and knowledge in Judicial Studies and Criminal Justice. Together in collaboration with city leaders, school board members, and local area high schools I believe this can be accomplished.
If elected, what would your goals be for the next four years? If elected, I would like to enhance the equity, fairness, and accessibility of the courts to all community members. I would like to see the court becoming more engaged with the community.
How can people reach you if they have more questions? Thank you. To anyone who may have any further questions or would just like to learn more about me I can be reached at [email protected] or at (505) 328-5702.