Socorro County Court House
John Larson | El Defensor Chieftain

The unexpected passing last month of Matthew Reynolds, Chief Judge of the Seventh Judicial District, makes it incumbent on Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to name his successor. Although the position of District Judge is an elected one, under New Mexico law, when there is a vacancy in that court, the governor must appoint one to fill out the term.

Seventh District applications have been submitted to the Judicial Selection Office as of Tuesday, March 30. The Seventh Judicial District Court Judicial Nominating Commission will convene on Monday, Apr. 12, and will occur exclusively by Zoom.

The Commission meeting is open to the public, and anyone who wishes to be heard about any of the applicants will have an opportunity to be heard.

The names of the applicants in alphabetical order:

  • Ricardo A. Berry, Socorro. Berry has been practicing law since 1995 and currently works in Socorro’s DA office.
  • Lee Albert Deschamps, Socorro. Deschamps has been practicing law in Socorro County since 1981.
  • Anne Elizabeth Gibson, Truth or Consequences. Gibson has been a practicing attorney in T or C since 2006 in criminal defense, family law and general litigation
  • Virginia Louise Hicks Raymond, Truth or Consequences. She has worked in the District Attorney’s T or C office since 2013 as a prosecutor.
  • Frederick (Ray F.) Sharbutt, Jr., Moriarty. Sharbutt has worked in the District Attorney’s Estancia office since 2001 as a prosecutor.
  • Katherine Renee Stout, Socorro. Riley has 19 years of experience practicing law in New Mexico.
  • Roscoe Augustus Woods, Socorro. Woods of the Woods Law Firm has been practicing law in Socorro since 2006.

Filling Reynolds judicial shoes will be no easy task.

Reynolds, who died of an aortic dissection on March 6, was appointed judge by Governor Bill Richardson in 2005 upon the resignation of Thomas Fitch in 2004.

Chief Judge Matthew Reynolds

An Oklahoma native, Reynolds had been living in Sierra County since 1992, working as a solo practitioner of law in Truth Or Consequences.

Since graduating with honors from the University of Wyoming Law School in 1986, his legal career began in Anchorage, Alaska, where he was an associate at Hughes, Thorsness, Gantz, Powell & Brundin, and Heller, Erfman, White & McAuliffe law firms. He also performed the duties of assistant district attorney in Kodiak, Alaska.

His personal injury law experience came from his association with two Alaska law firms. He said he handled personal injury claims, both on the defense, and on the plaintiff’s side, including a wrongful death case.

Prior to becoming district judge, his commercial law experience included commercial litigation in Alaska and New Mexico, handling real estate disputes, FDIC bank takeovers, and accountant malpractice.

He practiced criminal law on Kodiak Island, Alaska, where “the commercial fisheries brought in the toughest men from around the world. I wanted more adventure in my life and got it there,” he said in an interview with the Chieftain.

In Truth Or Consequences, he spent a year as a crisis counselor and was a part-time law instructor at New Mexico Tech Community College.

After his experience working with juvenile law and spending time as the primary Guardian ad litem in Sierra County, he wanted to devote himself full time to public service. “I believe that a strong ‘GAL’ can bring a better result for the children, whose health and happiness may depend on what is decided in court,” Reynolds said at the time. “The drug situation is worse now than it was 10 years ago, and methamphetamine is one of the main reasons.”

His experience ran the gamut from personal injury law, commercial law, domestic relations law, juvenile law, and appellate law to criminal law, and he said has tried about 40 cases without a jury, 12 cases to a jury, and “about a dozen appeals.”

After starting up his practice in Truth Or Consequences, he took on a number of divorce and legal separation cases and within two years, had a contract with Legal Services to represent indigent clients in their divorces. His other domestic law experience came for representing children in difficult custody cases as the Guardian ad litem.

He also participated in the start-up of the Teen Court in Sierra County. He said most of his experience in juvenile law comes from his work in child abuse and neglect cases in Truth Or Consequences.

The Seventh Judicial District Court covers Catron, Sierra, Socorro, and Torrance counties.