The quality of life for many Taos families is impacted by three major issues: drug and alcohol abuse, domestic and sexual violence, and mental health. I gained experience dealing with those issues for much of the last 10 years as your Deputy District Attorney. As the Democratic nominee for District Court Judge, Division III, I ask for your vote so that I can put that experience to work for you and Taos families.
Each of these critical issues is interconnected. Over 80 percent of individuals with drug and alcohol addiction have co-occurring mental illness. People abuse alcohol and drugs as a way to alleviate mental illness symptoms. Without also treating underlying mental illness, treatment for alcohol and drug abuse is destined to fail.
Those with addictions and mental illness nearly always end up in front of a judge. A subset of that group, facing powerlessness against their addictions and mental illness, use violence to assert power and control over spouses, children, or elderly parents.
Sadly, the drive for power and control lead some men to sexually assault their girlfriends or wives — and sometimes their own children. Frequently, these violators were violated themselves as a result of generations of untreated and unaddressed addictions and mental illness.
In Taos we have a culture of guns, gangs, drugs and violence. This culture results in horrific deaths, rapes and child abuse. Angry perpetrators and devastated victims all eventually end up in a Taos court room.
We need a judge with experience dealing with these horrible tragedies — experience with jury trials and experience with struggling to arrive at fair sentences. We need a judge who will know when stiff jail sentences are appropriate.
We need a judge who can work with prosecutors, defense attorneys, victim advocates and probation officers when treatment is appropriate. We need a judge who will lead the community to break the generational cycle of violence — and reduce the culture of guns, gangs, drugs and violence.
For nearly 10 years I have worked these cases. I have prosecuted homicides and horrible sexual assaults.
Early in my career I prosecuted crimes of domestic violence writing a $250,000 federal grant to increase the resources of the DA’s domestic violence unit. I worked closely with CAV and their victim advocates. Later, I prosecuted crimes of sexual violence against children and joined Taos County’s Child Sexual Assault Multi-Disciplinary Team. I attended many child safe room interviews and was trained in sexual assault prosecution.
As part of the Teen Drug Court and then for six years as a member of the Audit Drug Court Team, I have become a strong advocate for treating co-occurring disorders. I will seek out the resources to expand alternative courts for mental health and domestic violence.
My community work reflects these same interests. I am president of the board of TriCounty Community Services — the leading non-profit treatment program in Taos, Union, and Colfax counties for addiction and mental health issues. I am a mentor with TaosMEN. I teach criminal law and the courts to students at UNM-Taos who are pursuing a career in criminal justice — some of them former victims or defendants in cases I prosecuted. I served on the board of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Northern New Mexico.
As a certified foster parent, I opened my home for urgent placement of foster children and offered respite care for other foster parents’ children. I adopted my son out of foster care at age 3 and raised him as a single parent. He is now an extraordinary senior at Taos High.
As your judge, I will work to improve the efficiency of our district court. I have roughly 10 years experience in civil law, 10 years experience in criminal law, and 10 years experience working in nonprofit management since graduating from UNM Law School in 1982.
I will use my experience in program development and grant writing to enhance and expand the alternative courts providing more treatment alternatives to our judges. I have tried over 30 jury trials in Taos Court rooms. I will use my court experience to control the court room, speed up resolution of cases (civil and criminal) and boost public confidence in our court system through fair and just proceedings.
Beginning with early voting on Oct. 9, you have an opportunity to put experience, passion, efficiency and fairness on the bench. As your Democratic nominee, I respectfully ask for your vote for District Judge Division III.
Jeff McElroy is a former Deputy District Attorney in Taos County. He is an adjunct professor of criminal law at UNM-Taos and a single parent of a Taos High School senior. He is the Democratic nominee for the position of District Court Judge, Division III.