A September 25 Sunday Journal editorial entitled “Crime’s Unrelenting Impact” summarizes the frustrations shared by all in our community. Those who have spent their entire careers in the criminal justice system are just as frustrated and concerned as anyone. Communities are torn apart by this violence. Families lose their children to debilitating drug use.
As mentioned, this is a complex subject that requires real team effort. There are countless dedicated law enforcement professionals working diligently and at the risk of their lives to keep our streets safe. People in our criminal justice system, from parole officers to prosecutors, public
Defense attorneys, court experts and judges making difficult decisions work on these critical issues every day.
The editorial argues that the courts need to streamline the judicial process and better ensure speedy justice. With this in mind, the New Mexico Supreme Court has worked diligently to update processes and efficiency in the pursuit of expeditious justice.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court introduced many procedures that have greatly improved the way criminal cases are handled. These changes were introduced to ensure police can get back on the streets and prosecutors can focus on violent suspects. The procedures also allow our overburdened courts to operate more efficiently, allowing the system to focus its time and resources on the most problematic and dangerous offenders.
The Supreme Court amendments were introduced to eliminate the need for law enforcement officials, crime victims and witnesses to appear multiple times in court proceedings. This keeps our police on the road and prevents re-victimization of crime victims by avoiding multiple court appearances and lost time at work and with family.
The Supreme Court removed the requirements for pre-trial questioning in misdemeanor cases. Police can stay on the streets to protect our communities instead of spending time questioning. District courts may hold conciliation conferences in criminal cases to facilitate appeal hearings and to ensure that parties exchange evidence in a timely manner. Status conferences are needed early in criminal proceedings for out-of-prison defendants to quickly resolve cases and eliminate the need for witnesses, law enforcement, and victims to appear at hearings.
Traffic violation cases are now being conducted virtually so that everyone – especially officers – can avoid “wasting” time in a courtroom.
All of these changes have been made with input from law enforcement, judges and judicial partners, prosecutors and public defenders. Swift justice—as the journal’s editorial board put it in their editorial—is the goal, while ensuring that the constitutional rights of all New Mexicans are protected so that the innocent are acquitted and the guilty punished.
We must keep doing more. However, it is critical for readers of the Journal to know that the Supreme Court and its many partners who operate in our criminal justice system have come to the fore. These kinds of changes don’t grab the headlines, but they do matter and make a difference in our criminal justice system.