Getting to Know Your Neighbor

Submitted photos

Miles Tafoya white water rafting trip with his son on the Rio Grande north of Santa Fe.

Q: What do you think about when you are alone in your car?

A: “I mostly focus on my driving while I’m behind the wheel. However, sometimes on long trips with light traffic or when I am waiting at a light, I think about other things like what I need to accomplish for the rest of the day or following day.

“Sometimes I think over decisions I have made and play out scenarios on what would or could have happened if I made a different decision. I think about what I can do to improve myself and just how to be a better person. I think about my family and our future.”

Q: What’s a myth about your profession you’d like to bust?

A: “The myth I would like to bust is that judges can just do whatever they want to do that day and can dismiss anything on a whim without following any rules or previous guidance.

“There are numerous rules I and other judges are required to learn and follow, which I access constantly on For example, Rule Set 6 covers criminal procedure for magistrate court.  Then we have Rule Set 2, which covers civil procedure for all magistrate courts, as well as Rule Set 21 that covers the code of judicial conduct that we must adhere to. I am bound by all these rules.

Magistrate Miles Tafoya

Division 1, Los Lunas

Miles Tafoya is a judge in the Valencia County Magistrate Division 1 in Los Lunas, where he lives with his wife and three children. He is also a U.S. Army veteran.

“Cases may get dismissed for numerous reasons, such as violation of time standards for discovery to an essential witness failing to appear for trial. I am impartial; my rulings are never made based on a person’s looks, social status, political affiliation, education, ethnicity or age. I have to make sure everyone is abiding by the rules set in state statute.

“This is my plug where I invite you, John or Jane Q. Public to visit my court. It is open to the public. Please come in and watch. I would be happy to answer process questions after my dockets. Just so you know, neither I nor my staff can give legal advice or speak on specifics of cases, but you will probably get a taste of what I’m relating here on any given day in my court.”

Q:  What were you like in high school?

A:  “I had JNCO jeans (if you do not know what they are, look them up and you will get a good laugh), chain wallet, a skateboard and a ridiculous haircut. When I look back on that, I cannot help but cringe; however, it was what was in style at the time.

“I would like to think I was a friendly towards others, and a fierce and loyal protector to my good friends; although there are times, I know I fell short. I was not the best student. I probably spent more time trying to figure it out than the time I was given. This led me to the conclusion that there is nothing wrong with taking extra time to figure something out as long as you come to a conclusion, act upon it, and move on.

“Then, when I got my driver’s license, I graduated to picking up friends and girlfriends to socialize. Typical high school shenanigans if you will.”

Miles Tafoya making decorations for a float with his daughter while telling jokes.

Tafoya family photo in the bosque with his sons.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received and from whom?

A: “I’ve received a lot of great advice from my parents and from other mentor judges. The best piece of advice I received was to take time out and enjoy spending time with my children, parents and grandparents; it goes faster than you think. I wish I would have listened to this sooner; however, like the old saying goes, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is today.

“I do not want to look back 10 years down the road and live with the regret that I was not there because I was always working or trying to improve my situation. Family is the most important thing to me.

Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?

A: “What I wanted to be when I grew up has changed throughout the years. When I was a child, I wanted to be like my dad and work at the railroad on trains. As a teenager, I wanted to be a professional skateboarder. As a younger adult, I wanted to be a soldier and eventually get into Special Forces. Now, I just want to improve on my skills, serve my community and get better at being a judge.”

Q: Who inspires you?

A: “I’m inspired by every person who gets up day in and day out to make a better life for themselves and others. I see you and I know that it is not easy. I know that no matter how bad I think I have it, someone else has more of a burden, but they carry on despite the hardships and circumstances they’ve been dealt.

“I am always inspired by those who continue to work through it even when the weight of the world seems to be unbearable.”

Q: If you could work any other job for one day, what would it be and why?

A: “If I could work any other job for a day I would want to work as a major banking CEO. I have always wanted to see if it is worth the millions of dollars and benefits they receive every year.

“I would just like to know exactly what they actually do on any given day. I want to get a better understanding of that industry and be able to report to everyone else on what happens.

Q: What do you do in your free time?

A: “In my free time, I like to weld and attempt to fix broken things like tools and vehicles. I say “attempt” because sometimes it seems like I spend more time trying to fix it than it would cost to buy it new. I enjoy the learning process in fixing things and being able to teach my kids how to be self-sufficient.

“They like to learn new skills and are happy they do not have to hear how they are holding the flashlight wrong anymore. They finally figured out how to hold that sucker.”

Newest addition to the Tafoya family is their Dachshund puppy.

Q: What’s something about you most people don’t know?

A: “Something that most people do not know about me is that I like dachshunds “wiener” dogs. I do not know why, but I always thought they were interesting dogs. We had one when I was a kid and we currently have two now.

“I have always told my friends that a wiener dog farm or rescue loaded with a whole bunch of them would be the farm I would want. They are loveable and loyal, and every day when I get home from work, I am greeted by my two first and the rest of my family follows their lead.”

Q: What three books would you take to a deserted island?

A: “One would have to be ‘How to survive on a desert island.’ I would also bring a book on positivity and how to build a boat.

“All kidding aside, if I was going to be on a deserted island for a while, I would take books that I have been meaning to read or have not read yet. I have wanted to read “The Dichotomy of Leadership” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, as well as a Chuck Palahniuk novel I have not read yet, the sequel to “Fight Club.” I am currently re-reading “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Brandbury, so I would want that with me as well. 

Q: You find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?

A: “If I found a ticket worth $10 million, I would first attempt to find the rightful owner. If no one claimed it, and it somehow became mine, I would pay off the mortgages and bills of my parents, siblings and close friends, with a small stipulation that they attempt to pursue their passions and help others along the way.

“I would donate to some local charities that help our community. I would set my kids up with trusts and then pay off my bills, put some aside for traveling and save whatever I have left. It’s hard to know how far 10 million would go at that point.”

Q: Who is your best friend and why?

A: “Of course, my wife is my closest friend, but I have three best friends who I have known since I was a little kid. Each one is a phone call away.

“We all took different life paths but we still call each other to catch up regularly. Two of them still live in the area, so I try to spend time with them when I can. They have been with me through thick and thin. They have always told it to me like it is and not how they think I want to hear it.

“I think people like this are important because, at the end of the day, they’re the ones you can rely on to tell you when you need to change something or do something a different way to better yourself.”

Q: What’s your favorite song to sing when you’re alone?

A: “I have so many different songs that I like to sing, from “Santeria” by Sublime to “Long Hot Summer Day” by Turnpike Troubadours.

“If I had to pick one, I have been singing a lot lately, it would be “Hell of a Way to Go” by Riley Green. It reminds me that tomorrow is never promised and today is all we have. It helps me refocus on the most important things like family or just being able to watch a sunrise.”

Judge Miles Tafoya enjoys welding projects at home.

Judge Miles Tafoya and his family in the bosque.

Q: Where is your happy place, and why? 

A: “My happy place is at 5 p.m. on a Friday night with my family on the couch, renting a movie with a pizza on the way, popcorn in the microwave and a bag of candy.

“I spend so much of my time away from home that spending time with my family is something I have come to cherish more and more. There is nothing quite like family time, making memories and laughing together after a long week.”

Q: Have you had a life-changing experience that led you to where you are today?

A: “I have had a few. I would say the most memorable was when I was 19, not really going anywhere and getting into trouble. I went before Judge John ‘Buddy’ Sanchez. It was as if he looked past the face I was putting on in court and knew I needed to get out of here and do something positive.

“I do not know why that interaction resonated with me but it did. The next day, I talked to an Army recruiter and shipped out to basic training within a month. From there, a series of decisions to volunteer lead to a job with the DWI Drug Court and the opportunity to serve the community as a magistrate judge. It really did come full circle for me.”

Q: What teacher had the greatest impact on you? 

A: “I would have to say that the one teacher that had the greatest impact on me was Ms. Wisneski at Los Lunas High School. She was one of the only teachers who I can remember that tried to find the best way that I learn instead of the cookie cutter approach.

“She really put in the extra time to try to help me even though I made it hard. If you happen to read this, Ms. Wisneski, thank you. You have no idea how much you taught me and how much I appreciate you.”

Q:  What is your favorite movie scene and why?

A: “My favorite movie scene is from a movie that came out in 2010 called, ‘The Other Guys.’ The scene is called Tuna vs. Lion. I will not spoil it for people who have not seen the movie. It is just a back and forth between the two main characters that makes me laugh every time because it is just so ridiculous and out there. Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg do a great job in this movie and are some of my favorite actors for comedy.”

Q: If you could have dinner with one famous person — dead or alive—– who would it be and why?

A: “If I could sit down with one famous person, I would have to say it would be Nikola Tesla. I think it would be very interesting to ask him about his inventions and find out about ideas he may have had that never came into fruition. I would ask him about things he would change if he could go back, the most valuable lesson he learned in his lifetime, and any advice he would want to share.”

Q: What are you most proud of?

A:  “I am most proud of my kids. I know dads are supposed to say that but I really am most proud of them. They have really been coming into their own throughout the years. They are respectful to others and know when to stand up when something is wrong.

“They help others without being asked and ask for help when they need it. They show true empathy and caring and have taught me patience, which I am still working on perfecting.”

Q:  How would you like to be remembered?

A:  “I would like to be remembered as a good father and someone who was more helpful than harmful. I do not need statues or plaques, and just want to be remembered as a man who helped others and made this world a little better.

“I want my family to speak of me to future generations in a positive manner with some embellishments to my story here and there but ultimately with love and admiration for the service I was able to provide to others. Essentially, I want to be remembered for giving back more than I took.”

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