Emilio J. Chavez

Chief District Court Judge

Hon. Emilio J. Chavez was appointed to the Eighth Judicial District Court in 2015. He subsequently became chief judge of the Eighth Judicial District in 2019.  He was born and raised in Albuquerque, NM.  He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Grinnell College and is a member of their athletic hall of fame. After a short stint as professional baseball player, he returned to NM and received his J.D. from UNM School of Law. At UNM, he was a member of the New Mexico Law Review.  After graduating from law school, Judge Chavez initially practiced law in Washington D.C. for a small energy and transportation law firm. Missing NM and being deprived of green chile, he began a career as a prosecutor in Taos, NM. As a prosecutor, Judge Chavez generally handled the most serious and high profile cases in the Eighth Judicial District, participating, as first chair, in over one hundred-fifty jury trials.

Prior to taking the bench, Judge Chavez enjoyed teaching microeconomics and macroeconomics at the UNM-Taos as an adjunct instructor. Judge Chavez was honored by the New Mexico Children’s Law Institute as the recipient of Children’s Court Judge of the year for 2021. Additionally in 2021, the Midwest Conference named him as one of their top 100 student-athletes over the last 100 years. He currently services as a member of the State of New Mexico Judiciary’s Budget Committee and participates in numerous other committees within the judiciary.

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Steven A. Romero

District Court Judge


Jeffrey A. Shannon

District Court Judge

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Ernest L. Ortega

Presiding Judge, Taos Magistrate Court

Ernest L. Ortega was appointed Taos County Magistrate Judge in January 2006 by Governor Bill Richardson. Judge Ortega is currently serving his fourth elected term on the bench and presides over criminal and civil cases including felony preliminary hearings, misdemeanor jury trials and civil cases up to $10,000.00 claims.

Prior to his appointment, Judge Ortega served as  Special Assistant to United States Senator Jeff Bingaman, Director of Pre-Trial Services for the Eighth Judicial District Attorney’s Office under John Paternoster, and Press Secretary for New Mexico Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from the University of New Mexico

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Sara Blankenhorn

Magistrate Judge, Taos County

Graduated from Taos High, then earned B.A. from University of Washington, and M.A. from St. John’s College in Santa Fe. Earned law degree cum laude from University of New Mexico Law School.

After practicing law in Santa Fe and Taos, appointed Taos Magistrate Judge in March 2020 by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, then won the primary election in June 2020 to serve her first term.

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Felix Peña

Magistrate Judge, Colfax County – Springer

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Amy Hronich

Magistrate Judge, Colfax County – Raton

I, Amy Hronich, was born in Maxwell NM on a small farm and ranch. I grew up being involved in the local 4-H and FFA chapters, showing market steers and goats for 4-H and competing in various animal judging and farm economic competitions in FFA. I graduated from Maxwell high school as valedictorian of my small class of 18 students. I graduated from Eastern New Mexico University with distinction and earned my bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice.

I then went on to start my professional life as a permanency planning worker / investigator with the State of New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department (CYFD). My work included investigating child abuse and neglect reports and also managing legal cases where the children were in the State’s custody, and working with families to create safety plans involving access to services. After CYFD I decided to work on the service provider side with Service Organization for Youth and Teambuilder’s. The work in positions included working on treatment goals regarding safety concerns with families who had come to the attention of CYFD. I did hands on life skill training and parenting coaching with adults and children to resolve safety/ neglect issues identified through assessments.

After my career in social services I was recruited by the Raton Magistrate Court to apply for a temporary bench warrant clerk position. The court turned out to be the perfect fit for me as I enjoyed learning the aspects of criminal and civil law procedures and had a great teacher in Judge Warren Walton. In 2017 I received the Regional Clerk of the Year award for Region 3. In 2018 was promoted to Court Manager. In 2022 upon Judge Walton’s retirement I applied for the Colfax County DIV I Magistrate Judge position. I was appointed by Governor Lujan-Grisham to fill the position in September of 2022 and won the election in November of 2022.

I am currently enjoying the challenge of gaining and applying all the knowledge needed to be proficient in my new role. I look forward to helping the community by being part of the Behavioral Health Strategic Planning Committee, which is working on goals for adults that come to our attention through the legal system and strategies that work on goals to reduce recidivism rate for Colfax County. I am also part of the City of Raton Continuum that focuses on youth programs. My hope is through these programs and what I can implement in court that I will leave the community a better place than I found it.

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Mary Louise Harkins

Magistrate Judge, Union County

Mary Louise Harkins is the current (2023-2026) Magistrate Judge elect in Union County. She was employed by the 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office from 1992 to 2012 where she worked as a legal secretary; crime victim’s advocate and as a prosecutorial assistant. In, 2012, she was elected as the Union County Clerk and re-elected for a second term in 2016. She is honored to continue serving the residents of Union County and the 8th Judicial Distract. She has been married for 31 years and has 2 adult children. When not on the bench, you will find her with family.

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