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2018 Voter Guide

Constitutional Amendments:

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Constitutional Amendment 1:



The League has condensed the material provided by the NM Legislative Council Service (LCS) staff, which has no opinion on the proposals.

Constitutional Amendment 1 proposes that the legislature have the authority to create law that would allow decisions made by some lower courts to go directly to the court of appeals for review. Currently the NM Constitution requires all appeals cases to go through new trials in district court before being heard by the court of appeals. Appeals of certain cases decided in lower courts that do not require judges to be lawyers could still go to district court before going to the court of appeals.

ARGUMENTS FOR Proposed Constitutional Amendment 1

1. Could save both time and money for parties involved in appeals .

Appeals of decisions made by probate courts and metropolitan courts could go directly to the court of appeals instead of first going to district courts for intermediate rulings.

2. Could reduce caseloads in district courts.

District courts would benefit from having fewer cases. Defendants could also benefit because cases would not have to go through new trials in district court before possibly proceeding to the court of appeals and supreme court.

3. Would reduce unnecessary layers of appeal conducted at public expense.

Currently, minor decisions have up to three levels of review, while major decisions have up to two levels of review.  Appeals of lower court decisions on traffic violations and other relatively minor offenses have new trials in district courts before they are allowed in the court of appeals and possibly supreme court. In contrast, appeals of felony criminal cases and other serious offenses go from district court to the court of appeals and possibly the supreme court.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST Proposed Constitutional Amendment 1

1. May increase the number of cases in the appellate courts.

Adding appeals from lower courts could mean that traditional cases would get less time and fewer resources. Changing the process might not benefit litigants.

2. May not result in greater court efficiencies and related cost-savings.

Lawyers, judges, and court staff would have to learn a new process. Courts of appeals may need more money to handle the increased caseloads.

3. District courts may be best suited to establish a record for review.

Probate judges and magistrate judges in 31 of 33 counties are not required to be licensed attorneys. A case appealed from one of these courts may benefit from a new trial in a district court presided by a judge with more experience and training. (District court judges must be at least 35 years old and have practiced law for at least six years.)