A prosecutor’s purpose
I find it difficult to believe that we are arriving at the end of the year 2023. It has been a busy, non-stop year for the 13th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. As the year ends, I find it helpful to review our accomplishments and our challenges.
The three offices in my district, which encompasses Valencia, Sandoval and Cibola counties, have prosecuted and closed 6,011 cases. Additionally, an average of 6,071 cases were referred to our offices for screening and were opened. The attorneys in my district carry case loads of 289 cases each.
What this means for the legal assistants is they handle double that amount. My staff is incredibly hardworking under significant stress. In meetings with my colleagues and fellow district attorneys across the state, it is apparent that we are all feeling the pinch with regard to needing more attorneys to handle the constant flow of cases coming into our offices. It is a constant challenge — one I am proud to say my staff rises to meet daily.
We applied for and received significant grant funds, which enabled us to put on our first state-wide conference (one we intend to be annual) the Southwest Crimes Against Children Conference. Representatives from an assortment of agencies involved in the prosecution of crimes against children, as well as those who provide support for the victims came together for two days to share and learn best practices, updates in the law and learn from experts how best to minimize the impact of an already-traumatic event for a child via the way the crime is investigated and ultimately successfully prosecuted.
The conference was successful, exceeding our initial hopes, and we are already planning the second one for the fall of 2024. While the state of New Mexico grapples with preventing abuse and child welfare challenges, we continue to do our part to hold offenders accountable and bring justice to the victims.
Our young court facility dog, Cowboy, continues to learn and grow into his position. He has supported a number of victims over this past year in their pre-trial interviews and during their court appearances. Cowboy works with each victim many times a month as they prepare for court. He receives thank you notes from victims thanking him for helping them to be less nervous and feel more confident throughout the process and during court proceedings.
It is my fervent belief that the district attorney’s office — to be the most successful in our work — must collaborate with the community it serves. To this end, we work throughout the community in service. We have done in-service trainings for school district staff as they prepare to open a new school year, we have held round table discussions with Native veterans and given presentations to both middle and high school students on topics such as driving under the influence, bullying, truancy and more.
We work with all the law enforcement agencies, providing training and refresher courses. The Valencia County office has collected and donated more than 1,200 books distributed to children in all the elementary schools in Valencia County. This same office also joined in the Fire Truck Pull, a fundraising event for the youth Special Olympics team.
The Cibola County office recently helped in the preparation and serving of more than 250 Thanksgiving meals for senior citizens. Staff from the Sandoval County office have joined in several community service projects through Leadership Sandoval, such as raising funds for and building a feed storage shed for Loving Thunder Therapeutic Riding, which serves special needs individuals, veterans, and foster children. Another staff project involved creating and installing improvements to the Cuba Elementary School playground.
In addition to our primary purpose of representing the state and ensuring that justice is served within the bounds of the law by protecting the innocent and convicting the guilty, I know from experience that public safety can be increased by communicating, collaborating and cooperating with the communities we serve, through the creation of and practice of principled policies for both the community and my staff.
It is truly an honor and a privilege to serve as your elected district attorney, and I look forward to continuing to serve the 13th Judicial District in this manner in 2024. My staff and I wish you all a safe, peaceful and joyful holiday season and a Happy New Year.
(Barbara Romo is district attorney for the 13th Judicial District, which includes Valencia, Sandoval and Cibola counties.)