DA Torrez Fails To Tackle Resource Problem For Preliminary Hearings

On August 25, 2018 Presiding 2nd District Court Judge Nan Nash notified District Attorney Raul Torrez that the District Court decided to drastically scale back the planned reduction in the use of grand juries that had been scheduled for October.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1212980/court-alters-plan-to-decrease-grand-juries.html

The District Court has decided that the decline will be gradual and will take place over time.

Chief Judge Nash notified DA Torrez that the court will decrease the number of grand jury by four days a month, or one day a week, in November and December.

The decision was made that there will be no change in grand jury panels in October because APD and the Bernalillo County Sherriff’s Department will be busy with the Balloon Fiesta.

The court has made no decision as yet what the decrease in grand jury time will be in 2019.

The 2nd District Court is the only judicial district in New Mexico that relies extensively on grand juries as opposed to preliminary hearings to charge defendants with felony crimes.

According to Second Judicial District Court data, in 2017 there were 2,551 cases indicted by the DA’s office and there were 650 preliminary hearings held by the court’s criminal division.

From January 1, 2018 to June 30, 2018 there were 418 preliminary hearing with 1,688 cases indicted.

In 2017, 61% of felony preliminary hearings in the 2nd Judicial District Court led to a plea agreement at the hearing.

The National Center for State Courts has recommended that Bernalillo County use more preliminary hearings and fewer grand juries citing preliminary hearings as a best practices model.

Torrez said that after seven years of significant growth in crime rates, Albuquerque is now seeing crime on the decline.

Torrez worries that scheduling conflicts and having witnesses or others not show up for preliminary hearings will change that trend by saying:

“The effects of a 70 percent reduction [in grand juries] in under two months would have been catastrophic. … My concern is that we are going to have the same reduction, we’re just going to implement it through slow cuts over time. This is not the time to mess with a good thing … While that allows everyone to adjust, you’re still not tackling the fundamental resource question.”

District Attorney Raul Torrez strongly opposed reducing the grand jury time available arguing it would make launching new criminal cases far more challenging and far more resource intensive.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1202062/court-plans-major-cuts-to-grand-jury-system.html

According to Torrez, preliminary hearings are more financially and administratively burdensome for the District Attorney’s office and a drain on resources the office does not have to channel more cases through the process.

COMMENTARY AND ANAYISIS

District Attorney Raul Torrez’s proclamation that his office simply does not have the resources to do preliminary hearings is so laughable as to be embarrassing.

Torrez’s comments that “you’re still not tackling the fundamental resource question” and “This is not the time to mess with a good thing” will likely be challenged during the 2019 New Mexico legislative session and by none other than Democrat Senator John Author Smith.

Torrez himself has been a failure in tackling the resource problem himself after he secured significant funding increases from the New Mexico legislature and his failure to fill 55 vacant positions within his office.

The Bernalillo County District Attorney Office is the largest law firm in the State of New Mexico employing 315 full time employees including attorneys, paralegals, administrative assistants, victim advocates, investigators, IT managers and personnel and finance divisions.

During the 2018 legislative session, Torrez to his credit lobbied for and received a $4.2 million increase in total funding for the office.

Effective July 1,2018, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez has a $21.5 million-dollar budget to run the office.

More than half of the District Attorney’s $21. 5 million budget is dedicated to salaries with the budget for salaries now at $13,523,842.35.

According to the State of New Mexico Government Sunshine Portal the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office has 315 fully funded full time personnel positions.

http://sunshineportalnm.com/sample/#section=Employee

Of the 315 full positions funded, only 260 positions are filled.

Torrez has 55 vacant positions that are fully funded.

According to the New Mexico State Government Sunshine Portal, among the vacant positions with salaries listed include:

1 Chief Deputy District Attorney, $97,281.60 yearly salary.
1 Deputy District Attorney: $88,046.39 yearly salary.
10 Senior Trial Attorney positions: $79,684 yearly salary.
2 Assistant Trial Attorney positions: $65,270.39 yearly salary.
12 Legal Secretary positions: $33,238.39 yearly salary.
7 Trial Attorney positions: $72,113.60 yearly salary.
5 Prosecution Specialists: $49,545.60
1 Chief Financial Officer/Manager: $79,684.79 yearly salary.
1 Financial Specialist: $36,712.00 yearly salary
3 Program Administrator: $65,270.39 yearly salary.
5 Program Assistants: $33,238.39 yearly salary.
3 Secretary positions: $30,076.80 yearly salary.
1 Victim Witness Assistant: $44,824 yearly salary.
1 IT Administrator: $49,545.60 yearly salary.
1 Clerk position: $27,227.19 yearly salary.
1 Clerk Apprentice: $24,627.19 yearly salary.

In the event that Torrez does not fill any one of the vacant positions, the money will revert back to the State General Fund and will likely be cut by the New Mexico legislature in the 2019 legislative session.

Raul Torrez is paid $120,999.00 a year as the elected District Attorney.

District Attorney Raul Torrez employs Deputy District Attorneys, Senior Trial Attorneys, Trial Attorneys and Assistant Trial Attorneys earning as low as $53,287.32 and as high as $115,791.01 in base salaries depending on the positions held.

Base salaries paid do not include benefits paid such as bar dues, continuing legal education costs, sick leave and annual leave earned and retirement contributions to PERA made by the state to match employee contributions.

Fifty-two attorneys are paid more than $60,000 a year, thirty-eight are paid more than $70,000 a year, thirty-one are paid more than $83,000 a year, and 16 are paid more than $90,000 a year.

Forty-two attorneys are paid less than $60,000 a year.

There are 40 trial attorneys and are entry level positions with their average pay at $53,287.32.

Average starting salaries in the private practice of law for an attorney fresh out of law school with larger firms is approximately $65,000 to $85,000 a year.

Recent graduates from law school usually seek employment with the District Attorney to gain trial and courtroom experience at the expense of being paid lower wages and they usually move on within 2 years.

Virtually all the attorneys employed are “at-will” and serve at the pleasure of District Attorney Raul Torrez.

Many of the current attorneys employed can be considered “career prosecutors” given the years of experience and the amount of their salaries.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez employs at least 2 special Assistant District Attorneys on $75,000 contracts each who are retired prosecutors and are tasked with reviewing the backlog of police officer involved shooting cases.

Each attorney is commended and thanked for their service to people of New Mexico.

The higher the salary paid suggests to many that the attorneys carry higher caseloads, but that is not the case and managing attorneys carry a lower-case loads or no case load at all.

In 2017 there were 2,551 cases indicted by the DA’s office and there were 650 preliminary hearings which by appearance were handled without difficulty despite the fact Torrez had at the time 45 vacancies out of 304 full time staff and he complained about lack of resources.

Confidential sources have said that the District Attorney’s office is “hemorrhaging” with resignations with Torrez attempting to recruit experienced prosecutors from smaller District Attorney offices in the state and Torrez considering recruitment from out of state.

Senator John Author Smith, the Chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee delivered a very strong message to District Attorney Raul Torrez after his success in securing more funding during the 2018 legislative session.

Senator Smith said in an on camera in interview many feel Torrez had been given “enough rope to hang himself” with the increase in his budget.

http://www.koat.com/article/senate-finance-calls-for-2-million-more-for-bern-co-da/17009425

See also blog article:

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/02/11/senator-smith-tells-da-torrez-he-now-has-enough-rope-to-hang-himself/

At the time Senator Smith noted Torrez had been in office for only one year and he was still very new to the job.

Senator Smith declared that “the verdict” was still out if Torrez was capable of managing the office and producing results.

If there are no real results in the hiring and filling the vacant positions and clearing out the felony case backlog, Torrez will be hard pressed to justify any more increases in his budget and his management of the office will be questioned no doubt by Senator John Author Smith.

Mr. Torrez’s constant complaining during his time in office of lack of resources and personnel will no doubt fall on deaf ears and come back to haunt him, especially when he runs for reelection and if there is no serious reduction in the backlog of violent felony cases.

The public will no doubt learn during the 2019 legislative session if Torrez is successful in reducing the criminal case backload in the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office.

Given District Attorney Raul Torrez’s past mode of operation and attraction to the TV news cameras, do not be surprised if Torrez tells the New Mexico legislature he still does not have enough resources to do his job let alone have his office do preliminary hearings.

As the saying goes, some people will even bitch when hung with a new rope.

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POSTSCRIPT

As of August 16, 2018, according to the New Mexico State Government Sunshine Portal for the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s office, following is a listing of the 94 at will attorneys currently employed and their salaries paid by Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez:

Torrez , Presiliano R. District Attorney District Attorney, $120,999.00
Martinez , Carla C. Chief Deputy District Attorney, $115,791.01
Barth , Charles Lee Chief Deputy District Attorney, $106,590.17
Hood , Lelia L. Deputy District Attorney, $101,176.07
Mendez , Adolfo Chief Deputy District Attorney, $101,176.07
Waymire , David L. Deputy District Attorney, $100,762.37
Fricke , Michael P. Deputy District Attorney, $93,363.11
Rose , Greer E. Deputy District Attorney, $93,266.25
Outler , Thomas Deputy District Attorney, $91,631.58
Ice , Guinevere Deputy District Attorney, $91,545.11
Cappon , Alesia Deputy District Attorney, $91,467.52
Grayson , James W Deputy District Attorney, $91,241.03
Eagle , Rachel M. Deputy District Attorney, $90,988.63
Speer , Neal E. Deputy District Attorney, $90,897.73
Greenlee , Jason Deputy District Attorney, $90,622.82
Duran , Roderick J. Deputy District Attorney, $90,602.86
Reed , Richard D Deputy District Attorney, $90,602.86
Garcia , Diana L Deputy District Attorney $89,864.57
Gilbert , Penny E Deputy District Attorney, $89,392.34
Williams , Timothy Joseph Deputy District Attorney $88,039.92
Gray , Hubert M. Deputy District Attorney, $86,155.41
Mannal , Brian R. Senior Trial Attorney, $85,654.35
Delgado , Alma Rosa Senior Trial Attorney, $85,625.53
Montano , Joseph A. Deputy District Attorney, $85,399.39
Murphy , David A. Deputy District Attorney, $85,273.02
Strub , Natalie R. Deputy District Attorney, $85,273.02
Hasler , Glenn Deputy District Attorney, $85,273.02
Boone , Joshua D. Deputy District Attorney, $85,273.02
Jimenez , Joshua J Senior Trial Attorney District Attorney, $85,268.58
Romaine , Les Deputy District Attorney, $85,031.35
Rasmussen , D’Ann Deputy District Attorney, $83,971.38
Sullivan , Sean P Deputy District Attorney, $82,670.17
Litchford , John Deputy District Attorney, $79,814.59
McDaniel , Claire Senior Trial Attorney, $76,291.66
Cochnar , Evan Senior Trial Attorney, $74,613.34
Coulson , Candace D. Senior Trial Attorney, $73,305.26
Bardacke , Francheska Senior Trial Attorney, $70,000.32
Obenshain O’Gawa , Rebecca O., Senior Trial Attorney District Attorney, $70,000.32
Coffing , Andrew W Senior Trial Attorney, $69,172.64
Treich Junior , Gerard Senior Trial Attorney, $68,729.23
Robertson , Joseph H Senior Trial Attorney, $68,480.51
0McKenney , Bridget Senior Trial Attorney District Attorney, $68,206.00
McDonnell , Nicholas M. Senior Trial Attorney District Attorney, $67,155.10
Roberson , Daniel Senior Trial Attorney District, $66,341.44
Murphy , Haley W Senior Trial Attorney, $66,341.44
Vigil-Roybal , Lisa Senior Trial Attorney, $66,341.44
Casias , Monica C Senior Trial Attorney, $66,341.44
Lloyd , Ellen D Senior Trial Attorney, $66,341.44
Trembley , Timothy D., Senior Trial Attorney, $64,321.69
Wilson , Nora Trial Attorney District Attorney, $63,769.64
Moore , Christopher E., Senior Trial Attorney, $63,743.03
Diamond , Steven G. Senior Trial Attorney, $63,743.03
Wells , Calvin Senior Trial Attorney District Attorney, $58,669.26
Baird , Amanda L. Trial Attorney, $58,368.85
Romero , Theresa L. Trial Attorney, $57,710.38
Rubin , Joshua Trial Attorney, $57,710.38
Maestas , Ramon J Assistant Trial, $57,710.38
Gardner , Jonathan Trial Attorney, $57,688.21
Eydelman , Nina L. Trial Attorney, $57,688.21
Hufford , Marc G Trial Attorney, $57,688.21
Strassberg , Herbert Trial Attorney, $57,688.21
Rojas , Erika S Trial Attorney, $57,688.21
Crabb , Margaret J Trial Attorney, $57,688.21
Walker , Johnna L Trial Attorney District Attorney, $57,688.21
Reyes , Rebekah Trial Attorney, $57,688.21
Ebbers , Sarah Trial Attorney, $57,688.21
Dillon , Caitlin L. Trial Attorney, $57,688.21
Schotter , Ryan C Trial Attorney, $57,688.21
Ralph , Stephen Trial Attorney, $57,688.21
Ulibarri , Mia J Trial Attorney, $57,688.21
Pardo , David Trial Attorney, $57,688.21
Cortesi , Nancy A. Trial Attorney District Attorney, $57,688.21
Cassavant , Stanley J. Trial Attorney, $57,688.21
de Rijk , Kevin M., Trial Attorney, $57,688.21
Hoffman , Celina Trial Attorney, $57,688.21
Montoya , Joey Trial Attorney, $57,688.21
Martinez , Mari L. Trial Attorney, $57,688.21
Apodaca , Anthony A. Trial Attorney, $57,688.21
Hernandez , Victor Trial Attorney, $57,688.21
Gutierrez , Carmen M Assistant Trial Attorney, $53,296.19
Johnson , Emily Assistant Trial Attorney, $53,296.19
Beyal , Dana M Assistant Trial Attorney, $53,296.19
Mills , Ashlee Assistant Trial Attorney, $53,296.19
Brandenburg-Koch , Savannah Assistant Trial Attorney, $53,287.32
Peterson , Jolanna K Assistant Trial Attorney, $53,287.32
Johnson , Jordan D Assistant Trial Attorney, $53,287.32
Edmonds-Blevins , Emilie Assistant Trial Attorney, $53,287.32
Pierre , Denisha D Assistant Trial Attorney, $53,287.32
Johnson , Joseph E Assistant Trial Attorney, $53,287.32
Talamante , Joshua T Assistant Trial Attorney, $53,287.32
Stuart , Lindsay A, Assistant Trial Attorney, $53,287.32
Abeyta-Montoya , Elaine A, Assistant Trial Attorney, $53,287.32
Perl-Matanzo , Hans Sebastian, Assistant Trial Attorney $53,287.32
Hans, Sebastian Assistant Trial Attorney, $53,287.32

NOTE: The above are only base salaries paid and do not include benefits paid such as bar dues, continuing legal education costs, sick leave and annual leave earned and retirement contributions to PERA. Further, there are at least 2 special prosecutors on $75,000 contracts to review the backlog of officer involved shootings.

SOURCE: New Mexico State Government Sunshine Portal, Fiscal Year 2019, commencing July 1, 2018, Second Judicial District Attorney, listing of employees, positions and salaries

http://sunshineportalnm.com/sample/#section=Employee

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About

Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.