Is the Magistrate Court being operated as a “people’s court”?

Two candidates for District 2 Magistrate Judge disagreed on that question in the DPSFC forum on May 22. 

Melissa Mascarenas, a former court monitor and paralegal, argued that the current Magistrate Court, headed by Judge Morgan Wood, is not as close to the people as it should be. Mascarenas’ lack of a law degree, she contended, is an asset that would bind her closer to the people served in District 2.

“I’m asking each and every one of you to please consider … Magistrate Court a people’s court,” she told the standing-room crowd at the Democratic Party of Santa Fe County headquarters auditorium. “It’s what it was designed to do, and it’s worked beautifully (in the past). There’s no need for an attorney to be sitting on that bench.”

Wood, who is an attorney, was appointed to fill a vacancy on the bench by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and, if elected, would serve out the remainder of the unexpired term of former Magistrate Judge Dev Atma Khalsa.

“Experience matters. Knowledge matters. Education and training matter,” she said. “My opponent has zero training and experience in the Magistrate Court. … I earned (the job) with my years in this court, working with the people in this court over and over and over. We work as a team. We work with our staff, making sure every person who appears in front of us is heard, is respected, and is accountable. Ours is the people’s court.”

Wood and Mascarenas will vie for the Democratic Party nomination to the post in the June 4 primary. With no Republican or Libertarian on the ballot, the winner of the primary will almost certainly emerge as the District 2 magistrate judge in November.