Three and a half months after longtime San Miguel County Magistrate Philip Romero retired, the governor has selected an attorney to replace him.
Gov. Susana Martinez has appointed Edward “Eddy” M. Gallegos to fill the position.
“Mr. Gallegos has a diverse background as an attorney, and this experience will serve him well as a magistrate judge,” Martinez said in a news release issued late Wednesday. “I believe he will be a strong public servant on behalf of the citizens in San Miguel County and continue his commitment to upholding the law.”
Gallegos, a Republican, will have to win his party’s nomination during the June primary and then win in the November general election in order to hold on to the post.
“I’m really honored. I’m honored that the governor gave me a chance to prove myself,” Gallegos, 56, told the Optic Thursday morning.
He said he plans to begin either on Aug. 26 or Sept 3, depending on how quickly he can close down his law practice and hand off his open cases to other attorneys.
“I hope to hit the ground running, and I think it’s going to be a good experience,” Gallegos said of the post that in New Mexico pays magistrate judges a salary of $79.500. “I’m going to do a good job. I’m going to be fair to everyone.”
Nine people applied for the post, including several attorneys. Applicants included Las Vegas Police Chief Christian Montaño, former Chief Gary Gold, former state lawmaker Barbara Casey, longtime paralegal Ruth Trujillo, prosecutor Twila Quintana and local attorneys Wilma Brown and Suzanne Gaulin. Also applying was Municipal Judge Eddie Trujillo, although he subsequently withdrew his name.
In its announcement of the appointment, the Governor’s Office described Gallegos as a sole practitioner with a practice focused primarily on criminal defense. The Governor’s Office also notes that Gallegos was a senior trial attorney for the local district attorney’s office, prosecuting felony DWI cases, including vehicular homicide cases.
Gallegos said the fact that he has served as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney gives him a unique perspective.
He said he understands the difficulties that both prosecutors and defense attorneys face.
Gallegos was born and raised in Las Vegas. He graduated from Robertson High School in 1974. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Highlands University in 1992.
Gallegos graduated from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 2005 and was admitted to the state bar in 2006.
He is also licensed to practice law in U.S. District Court.
Gallegos practiced with Gerald Baca for three years until Baca was appointed to a vacant district judge position earlier this year.
He said that as an attorney, he has appeared in magistrate and district courts throughout the state and in doing so he observed different ways that courts are run. He said he hopes to bring some of the practices that he liked to his new job.
Gallegos added that he respects Judge Chris Najar, the court staff and the attorneys who practice there.
Romero, the judge that Gallegos is replacing, announced his plans to retire in April. He served as a magistrate judge for 16 years.
Although there is no requirement that a magistrate in New Mexico have a law degree, Romero told the Optic in April that he thinks they should be required to be attorneys because of the legal nature of the work. Romero doesn’t have a law degree.
“You’ve got lawyers arguing cases before a layman,” he said at the time. “That’s serious stuff so maybe we need to rethink that.”