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Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court

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Criminal bench trials, select hearings to resume in-person July 19th

July 7, 2021

The Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court will begin holding more in-person hearings starting July 19th.  Through an amended Order, the New Mexico Supreme Court recently gave courts the green light to expand in-person operations. 

“This is what we have worked so hard for the past 16 months,” said Chief Judge Maria I. Dominguez. “Innovation, technology and a dedicated workforce kept the courts open and operational throughout the pandemic, and we are now at a point where we can safely allow more people into the building with continued precautions against the spread of COVID-19.”

Under the amended Order, the following types of criminal proceedings will be held in-person in the Metropolitan Court effective July 19, unless otherwise ordered by the trial Judge in consultation with Chief Judge Dominguez:  

·         Bench trials, including traffic bench  trials, which are held by a judge without a jury.

·         Plea and sentencing hearings.

·         Hearings to determine whether a defendant is competent to stand trial.

·         Preliminary hearings, which determine whether there is probable cause for a felony criminal prosecution to move forward in the District Court.

·         Probation revocation hearings for defendants who are not in custody but when jail time is requested.

Per the Order, civil bench trials may be held in-person at the discretion of Chief Judge Dominguez. 

All other criminal and civil proceedings will continue to be held remotely (by phone or by audio-visual), including traffic arraignments, unless otherwise ordered by the trial Judge in consultation with Chief Judge Dominguez.  

The court resumed in-person criminal and civil jury trials in February of this year after a brief pause.    

“We want people to know that coming to court is safe.  We have remained diligent in reducing the spread of the virus by continuing to mandate masks for visitors and staff alike regardless of vaccination status, screening everyone upon entry for possible COVID exposure, enforcing social distancing, installing Plexiglas barriers throughout the courthouse and continuing enhanced disinfection practices,” said Court Executive Officer Robert L. Padilla.  “Seventy-seven percent (77%) of our judges and staff are fully vaccinated at this time.”  

The court will be mailing updated notices for in-person hearings, and those with an upcoming court date are encouraged to contact their attorney or call the court at (505) 841-8151 if they are unsure about whether they need to appear in-person or remotely.  Information on how to connect to virtual hearings will continue to be posted on the homepage of the court’s website: https://metro.nmcourts.gov/.

“As the busiest court in the state, Metro Court is not able to simultaneously facilitate a hearing both in-person and remotely at this time.  It’s one or the other,” added Padilla.   

Those who show up to the courthouse for a virtual-only hearing will have the option of using one of the court’s computers at a neighboring building.