Sarah Weaver 1 of 3 applicants interviewed for position

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FARMINGTON — A Farmington attorney says she was incredibly humbled after a state commission recommended her to fill the seat of a retired district judge.

The Eleventh Judicial District Judicial Nominating Commission selected Farmington attorney Sarah Weaver this afternoon as its recommendation for an appointment to the Division 3 district judge seat for the 11th Judicial District.

The vacancy was created when Sandra Price retired from the bench effective Jan. 2 after serving for 13 years.

Weaver said she had family members who were judges who were very influential on her.

"I've also had the privilege of appearing in front of very good judges I admire and want to aspire to be like," Weaver said.

Weaver has represented clients in domestic and criminal law, along with personal injury law at her Farmington-based practice. She also worked for the 11th Judicial District Attorney's Office twice for a total of nearly five years.

Weaver, along with applicants Adam Bell and Kyle Finch, were interviewed by the 20-member commission in a courtroom at the Farmington District Courthouse.

The commission is comprised of people including attorneys and judges from across the state such as New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Barbara Vigil and New Mexico Court of Appeals Judge Stephen French.

University of New Mexico School of Law Dean Alfred Mathewson served as the chairman of the commission.

After about 90 minutes of deliberation following interviews, the commission reconvened and voted 17-2 to select Weaver as its recommendation. As the chairman, Matthewson does not vote unless there is a tie.

During the meeting, each candidate gave an opening statement, then each member of the commission was given an opportunity to ask a question.

Weaver said during her opening statement that her experience as a prosecutor and a trial lawyer would help her see cases from different views.

Attorney Patricia Simpson asked Weaver about how she plans to handle the docket of abuse and neglect cases that Price oversaw and what experience she had in that area of law. Weaver responded she did not have experience with abuse and neglect cases, but she is willing to work hard and do justice to the position.

"I'm willing to put the work in. I think it's important that I have the time and the desire to put the work in to make the transition from being an advocate to a judge," Weaver said after the meeting.

She gave a similar response when asked about her lack of experience in working a civil case with a jury trial.

During Bell's opening statement, he said he fell in love with the law while in law school and was eager to explore this area of the law.

Commissioners noted Bell sometimes gave long responses to their questions in which he lost his point or went on a tangent.

In response to one of the questions, Bell stated he would be able to make quick and direct orders or rulings in court.

Finch told the commission in his opening statement he thought Price was thoughtful and tremendous, and he was ready to serve the community. 

He was questioned about his connection to defendant Bobby Willis, who admitted in federal court in July 2017 to defrauding a local couple of nearly $1 million during a real estate scheme.

Finch said he worked with Willis before the accusations and charges were filed against him and that he did not do anything unethical or immoral.

At the start of the meeting, Mathewson said he plans on providing the commission's recommendation to Gov. Susana Martinez for her consideration as soon as he can. The deadline to provide the recommendation is Feb. 1.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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