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Ceremony honors two district court judges

Sandra Price, late James Brown lauded at Tuesday event

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
Judge Sandra Price receives a New Mexico flag from San Juan County court executive officer Weldon J. Neff during Price's retirement ceremony on Tuesday at Aztec District Court.
  • The ceremony took place Tuesday afternoon in the Aztec District Courthouse.
  • Judge Sandra Price is looking forward to retirement and an overseas trip next year.
  • Attorney Victor Titus and James Brown's son Mike spoke during the ceremony.

AZTEC — Members of the local legal community converged on the Aztec District Courthouse earlier this week to honor retiring District Judge Sandra Price and recognize the late District Judge James Brown.

Officials of the 11th Judicial District, along with members of the State Bar of New Mexico, attended a ceremony honoring Price and Brown in the lobby of the Aztec District courthouse Tuesday afternoon.

Price's last day in court was Monday, and she will retire as the Division 3 district judge for the 11th Judicial District on Dec. 31.

She was the first woman elected as a San Juan County district attorney in 1996 and held the position for four years during her 15 years as a prosecutor, according to The Daily Times archives.

In 2004, Price was elected to the bench and was elected to a five-year term following the Nov. 4, 2014, general election.

"I'm very proud of my career," Price said after the ceremony. "I achieved things that I never really thought I would achieve."

Plaques for the two judges were installed in a judicial retirement wall honoring retired district judges. A black ribbon and a red rose were affixed to Brown's plaque for the ceremony.

Joyce Brown examines at a portrait of her late husband Judge James Brown during a ceremony on Tuesday at Aztec District Court.

Price pulled away a black cloth to reveal her plaque on the wall after District Chief Judge Karen Townsend spoke about Price.

Townsend shared anecdotes about her friendship with Price, including how Price is one of the loudest people cheering in the stands at Aztec High School basketball games.

Weldon Neff, the court executive officer for the 11th Judicial Court, presented gifts from the court staff in Aztec, Farmington and Gallup. Price was given an engraved plaque, along with New Mexico and American flags that had been flown outside the Farmington District courthouse.

Staff members from the three courthouses signed the New Mexico flag that was presented to Price.

Price's last court docket on Monday was a set of neglect or abuse hearings for the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department. The hearings provided updates on disposed or completed abuse and neglect cases. Some of the cases could end up with the children being adopted, something Price said made her sad, since she won't be able to handle the cases.

Judge Sandra Price stands next to her husband Mike Kilpatrick during her retirement ceremony on Tuesday at Aztec District Court.

She has been told that she'll be able to attend some of the hearings and observe some of the adoptions of the cases she handled.

Price said she is excited about retirement and is looking forward to taking her granddaughter to karate lessons. She also is anticipating and a trip to Wales next year with her daughter Amanda Price.

Attorney Victor Titus spoke about Brown's 15-year tenure as a district judge and the friendship the two men shared.

"Jim Brown is one of my heroes. I'm so fortunate that I got to also call him one of my best friends," Titus said.

Brown's wife of 55 years, Joyce Brown, and son Mike Brown also were present at the ceremony.

Michael Brown talks about his father Judge James L. Brown during a ceremony on Tuesday at Aztec District Court.

James Brown was in the first graduating class of students from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 1950 and moved to Farmington shortly after that, according to a copy of Brown's obituary.

He opened his own law firm and practiced law for 26 years until he was elected to a district judgeship in 1976, where he served until 1991. He died on Sept. 16.

Titus said Brown was a wonderful judge who loved the profession and that he was a great neighbor.

Mike Brown shared a childhood memory of sitting in his father's lap as he flew his airplane to Denver.

"He was a great pilot, a great skier," Mike Brown said.

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.