Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced on May 12 that she has named Roscoe Augustus Woods, 49, of Socorro to the Seventh Judicial District Court, Division II. He fills a vacancy created by the death of Chief Judge Matthew Reynolds in March.
Woods said in an interview with the Chieftain on Monday that he “has some big shoes to fill.
“I do recognize that this isn’t the ideal circumstances for this appointment,” he said. “I appreciate what Judge Reynolds brought to the bench; his knowledge his expertise, his command of the bench, along with his compassion. He had this unique ability to command the courtroom and be stern, but yet he could render compassion when it was deserved. I just wish this [appointment] was under better circumstances and I want to send my best to his wife and to his family.
“I do understand that I have big shoes to fill and I hope I don’t disappoint,” he said.
Woods has led his own private practice firm in Socorro since 2006 upon his completion from the Court of Appeals . He previously served as Assistant Attorney General and Director of the Open Government Division for the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General and worked as a special commissioner for the Seventh Judicial District Court.
“When I was clerking for the two years at the Court of Appeals I was exposed – at the appellate level – to a variety of legal issues including civil, criminal, administrative and workmen’s compensation. That experience enabled me to jump into the general practice of law,” Woods said. “That’s where I was introduced to the wide body of law.”
He said his concept of a good district judge, “is one that is more of a generalist, as opposed to a specialist.
“With those early years of experience, I opened my general practice firm and since 2015 have practiced in subject matters from civil and criminal to corporate, appellate, real estate, personal injury, fence law, equestrian law and have dabbled in writing appeals at the appellate level. I have one now in the New Mexico Supreme Court,” he said.
Born and raised in New Mexico, Woods graduated high school from the New Mexico Military Institute before receiving his bachelor’s degree from New Mexico State University on a football scholarship and his law degree from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School at Western Michigan University.
“I’m very proud that I grew up in Socorro and central New Mexico,” he said. “My parents Patty and Jamie Woods raised me and my two brothers, Daniel and Peter in Socorro County – Polvadera – since birth.”
Woods began his education at Mt. Carmel parochial school and went on to graduate from New Mexico Military Academy in Roswell.
“I went all four years of high school there. I credit NMMI for preparing me for life’s demands,” he said. “I think that’s where I started learning the qualities of becoming a good person, a good lawyer. Qualities like integrity, discipline, duty and honor. That school is huge on instilling these characteristics.”
Woods was admitted to the New Mexico bar in 2006. He and his wife Janice relocated back to Socorro in 2008. They have a daughter, 12-year-old Kailyn.
In appointing Woods, the governor based her decision on the recommendation of the non-partisan Judicial Nomination Commission.
“There was the same number of Republicans and Democrats and their recommendation was strictly merit-based,” Woods said. “I feel humbled by their impartiality and objectivity.”
The committee also received personal letters of recommendation from Attorney General Hector Balderas and retired jurist Roderick Kennedy of the Court of Appeals, as well as retired Seventh District Judge Ted Kase.
The Seventh Judicial District covers the counties of Catron, Sierra, Socorro, and Torrance. In succeeding Judge Matthew Reynolds and taking over the Division II position, Woods’ bench will be primarily at the Sierra County courthouse in Truth or Consequences.
He said he looks forward to beginning his tenure, tentatively set to begin on June 1.
“The judiciary is a significant arm of the government and I realize that the decisions I will make as a judge will have a serious impact on peoples’ lives,” Woods said. “I am honored to have been chosen and believe my experience will enable me to make the tough decisions to send violent criminals away, with the necessary compassion to give people a second chance. Your judge must weigh the facts against the law. Inexperience is not an option and is unacceptable, as our community members’ finances, safety, wellbeing and family ties are at stake.”