The criminal justice system in Las Cruces experienced the biggest shake-up in recent memory when a tidal wave of Democratic support swept out three judges appointed by Governor Susana Martinez. Judges Susan Riedel, Jacinto Palomino and Nelson Goodin - all former employees of the Governor -were replaced in their first election by Democrats Marci Beyer, Mary Rosner and Darren Kugler, respectively.
The biggest shocker of Election Night was the upset of longtime prosecutor Amy Orlando by Mark D'Antonio, a newcomer to the political scene in Las Cruces, in a race that the Las Cruces Sun-News called "heated and sometimes nasty." And that's putting it mildly. Most local observers I talked to believed it to be one of the most vicious campaigns in local history. The dethroning of Orlando effectively ends one of the most successful regimes in Southern New Mexico history, where now-Governor Martinez and her right hand woman Orlando headed the District Attorney's Office for 16 years.
With nearly 75 years of public service between them, Riedel, Goodin, Palomino and Orlando have served the community well. Their reputations and experience all but guarantee that each will quickly land on their feet. No doubt Susana will make sure that each of them has place to work in Santa Fe if nothing else.
For those of us at the courthouse daily, the changes ahead are exciting. The weeks and months ahead will be spent feeling out the new DA and judges as we gather information about their tendencies so we can best predict outcomes for our clients.
As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus noted, "Nothing endures but change." Here's hoping that the changes ahead will bring about a more reasonable criminal justice system here in Dona Ana County.