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The Honorable Sandra Engel to retire after 16 years on the Metropolitan Court bench

September 20, 2022

The Honorable Sandra Engel stepped down from the bench at the end of September after serving as a Metropolitan Court Judge for 16 years.

“It’s been an honor to serve this community for nearly two decades, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked alongside outstanding jurists and staff here at Metro Court and throughout the state,” said Judge Engel.

Judge Engel served as the court’s Chief Judge from January 2019 to August 2020, where she was integral in implementing alternatives to in-person interactions to help keep the public and court staff safe at the onset and during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic while courts remained open.

In her time leading the court, Judge Engel made it a priority to regularly meet with staff and management to evaluate court processes and to increase efficiencies within New Mexico’s busiest court. She served on numerous statewide judiciary committees and was instrumental in advocating to the legislature for raises for judges and staff.

In addition to her contributions as Chief Judge, Judge Engel played a leading role in the startup and success of two of Metro Court’s Specialty Court programs.

After personally observing a need for the veterans in the community, Judge Engel created, implemented and presided for many years over Metro’s Community Veterans Court (C.V.C), a specialty treatment court designed to help effectuate treatment for veterans charged with misdemeanor offenses.

As a way of bringing the justice system to the classroom, Judge Engel established and presided over the Courts to School Program for a number of years – a program in which defendants are sentenced in front of high school and college students with the purpose of educating and deterring the students from drinking and driving.

Judge Engel also oversaw the Domestic Violence Early Intervention Program (DVEIP) from 2007 to 2015, a program that offers treatment and counseling to first-time domestic violence offenders.

Appointed and then elected to the Metropolitan Court Criminal Division bench in 2006, Judge Engel served as a member of the Code of Judicial Conduct Committee, the Tribal-State Judicial Consortium Committee, the Advisory Board of the Code of Judicial Conduct Committee and on the Supreme Court’s Ad Hoc Pretrial Detention Committee. Judge Engel also previously presided over the Criminal Division of the court.

Prior to her tenure on the bench, Judge Engel served as an Assistant District Attorney in Bernalillo County for ten years prosecuting misdemeanor and felony cases and serving as an Assistant City Attorney for the City of Rio Rancho. She also worked in private practice handling both civil and criminal matters, acting as a guardian ad litem, CASA, and respondent’s attorney in child abuse cases.

Born and raised in Alabama, Judge Engel received her undergraduate degree and law degree from the University of Alabama and was admitted to the New Mexico State Bar in 1994. She will continue her career as an Executive/Leadership Coach: coaching judges, lawyers, law students, and other community leaders. She also will serve as the Judicial Wellness Program Manager at the State Bar of New Mexico.

The Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court Judicial Nominating Commission will convene on Tuesday, October 11, 2022 to interview applicants vying to fill the vacancy created by Judge Engel’s forthcoming retirement.