Following the announcement she intends to retire from her post at Taos District Court at the end of February, The Taos News reached out to Judge Sarah Backus with a few questions about her …
Following the announcement she intends to retire from her post at Taos District Court at the end of February, The Taos News reached out to Judge Sarah Backus with a few questions about her decision and what her future holds.
1) Your announcement comes well before the end of your second term as judge in Taos. Why retire now? Did the controversy surrounding your ruling to grant bail for the “Amalia five” play into that decision?
My term started in 2014 and ends in 2020 and is a six-year term. I had been considering making a change well before the August hearing. The decision to leave the bench now was a very difficult decision that I struggled with for many months. I enjoy my work and have been dedicated to it and feel that I’ve made a positive difference in my community. The sensationalized reporting which resulted in death threats and expressions of personal hate were difficult for me and my family.
2) The public saw very clearly last summer that your job comes along with a great deal of public pressure. How did you learn to handle that pressure while adhering to your commitment to upholding the law? What advice would you lend a new judge regarding how to handle difficult decisions in the courtroom?
When you become a judge, you are bound by a code of conduct which prevents you from commenting on a pending case even when you come under harsh criticism and personal attack and it can be challenging in a small town. I feel that my oath to uphold the law fairly and impartially is sacred.
3) How do you hope to see the Taos County court system evolve moving forward? During your time as chief judge, what did you accomplish that might have shaped the future of our local courts?
I hope the state has ample resources to provide the necessary funding for prompt and fair resolution of cases.
4) Budgets have been tightened in New Mexico in recent years, including the judiciary. What resources do you believe are most needed for our judicial system in Taos to function better?
Continued funding for treatment courts is crucial. Mental health issues, drug and alcohol addiction can lead to criminality. Treatment courts (drug courts, mental health courts, DWI courts) save money and save lives.
5) What do you plan to do in retirement?
I plan to enjoy my retirement and spend quality time with my family and friends and decide what the next chapter of my career is going to bring.
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