'93 Grad Appointed to Fifth Judicial Bench05.10.2013 | Law, Students
Raymond Romero began his legal career in environmental law, but an advertisement in the local Bar Bulletin for a prosecutor changed his path. Now, with 18 years as a prosecutor under his belt, the UDSL '93 grad hopes to make a difference in the lives of others as a state district court judge.
Romero was appointed in February by New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez to serve as district court judge for the state's fifth judicial district. He said he believes the skills he developed in years of trial work will serve him well on the bench.
As a prosecutor, Romero tried well over 200 felony jury trials involving murder, rape, homicides, kidnappings and capital murder cases.
But although he came to enjoy prosecuting, he said trial work had not always been his plan.
"All through law school, I thought I wanted to get into environmental law. After I took the bar I went to work for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, a Department of Energy facility that stores low level radioactive (transuranic) waste was generated by the defense industry," he said. "The work was very challenging, but I started to realize it wasn't what I wanted to do."
After seeing an ad for a prosecutor in the Bar Bulletin, he walked across the street to the district attorney's office. He landed the job, and the meeting began an 18-year career as a chief deputy district attorney for the Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
"For me, it was so much more interesting, especially in this part of the state, where we have a lot of trials," he said. "Trial work is extremely stressful until you actually start doing the trial. As soon as the trial starts, you get into a zone and realize why you're there, and it's a lot more enjoyable. I got to know victims and their families, and was always trying to work hard to achieve justice, which is what brings people to the court."
During his time in the district attorney's office, he also served as a member of the Eddy County Magistrate Court DWI/Drug Court and the Child Abuse Multidisciplinary Team of Eddy County, and on the board of the Eddy County Battered Family Shelter.
About five years ago, Romero began thinking about using his trial skills in a way that might benefit both victims and defendants.
"I started thinking that maybe I wanted to serve in a little different capacity. I thought the skills I had developed over the years would serve well on the bench, and allow me to do good from a different perspective," he said.
He said that there were parts of prosecution that were always difficult.
"It's hard not to become jaded. You see the horrible things that people can do, and do, to each other. Its easy to become distrustful," he said. "I think was successful at combating that, but any prosecutor will tell you that it is a hard thing to do every day.
"I started to think there were things I could do to help change criminal defendant's lives that I couldn't do as a prosecutor."
Romero was appointed to the Fifth Judicial District after a judicial selection committee made up of local attorneys recommended his name to the governor. Gov. Martinez called Romero a "a voice for law and order (who) will continue to uphold the law as a member of the Fifth Judicial District Court bench."
When asked what advice he would give current law students or new attorneys, he said he would encourage them to take advantage of opportunities for real-world experience.
"If I could go back, I would have taken advantage of internships, because that will help you decide what you really want to do," he said. "We've had students come through the district attorney's office, and it's helped them to focus in on what they want to do. Some of them find it's exactly what they want, and some of them realize that's not at all where they should be. I think I wasted a year or two of my career by focusing on what I thought I wanted to do, instead of exploring what was out there."
He urged students not to be discouraged when starting out fresh from law school. He said he's looking forward to doing a job that, back in law school, he never imagined he would have.
"It's hard. But when you start making connections, it starts to work out. I never thought when I started out 20 years ago that I would be here. I never aspired to be a judge. But I believe God has a plan for us, and if we're faithful to Him, he'll help us carry it out."