Taos District Court Judge Sarah Backus to retire

By John Miller
jmiller@taosnews.com
Posted 1/8/19

After more than seven years hearing cases in Taos District Court, Judge Sarah Backus announced she will retire at the end of February, before the end of her second term.

"It has been a great honor …

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Taos District Court Judge Sarah Backus to retire

Posted

After more than seven years hearing cases in Taos District Court, Judge Sarah Backus announced she will retire at the end of February, before the expiration of her second term.

"It has been a great honor to serve the people of the Eighth Judicial District for the past seven and one half years," Backus said in the announcement, which was released on Tuesday (Jan. 8). "I appreciate their support and confidence in me, especially after my controversial ruling last August."

Backus received a string of death threats that caused a lockdown at the Taos County Courthouse Complex on Aug. 14 after she granted bail to five adults charged with abusing children at a remote compound near Amalia.

Other evidence presented by the state suggested the adults, who are all Muslim, might have also been training the children to carry out attacks on government institutions.

In her farewell letter, submitted to New Mexico Chief Justice on Jan. 4, Backus affirmed her commitment to "uphold the law and to treat all people equally under the law ..."

Backus received her law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of Law, and later moved to Taos, where she has lived for the past 25 years.

Before Gov. Susana Martinez appointed her to Taos District Court in 2011, Backus had served in the Eighth Judicial District Attorney's Office and worked as planning director for the town of Taos.

Voters chose to retain Backus as judge in 2012 and elected her in 2014 to a six-year term.

Her current term would have expired in 2020.

While on the bench, Backus has served as chief judge from August 2011 to January 2014. She also served as presiding judge for seven and a half years, as well as the water judge. She has worked to train other judges and currently serves as chair of the Supreme Court's Drug Court Advisory Council.

An independent judicial nominating commission will screen applicants and recommend candidates to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to fill the vacancy.

Backus will continue to hear cases through the end of February.

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