Eighth Judicial District Court
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Emilio J. Chavez
Chief District Court Judge
Melissa A. Kennelly
District Court Judge
Melissa A. Kennelly was appointed district judge in April 2019. Judge Kennelly presides over cases filed in the Colfax and Union county district courts, including felony criminal, civil, probate, children’s court, domestic matters, administrative and magistrate court appeals, and is the district’s water judge. In addition to her caseload, Judge Kennelly presides over the Raton Adult Drug Court and Behavioral Health Court programs, chairs the New Mexico Supreme Court Commission on Mental Health and Competency, and serves on the Judicial Standards Commission and the Judicial Conclave Planning Committee.
Prior to her judicial appointment, Judge Kennelly was an attorney for the Eighth Judicial District Court; engaged in general civil litigation and transactional work; and served as an appellate law clerk for The Honorable Timothy L. Garcia of the New Mexico Court of Appeals and The Honorable Steven L. Bernard of the Colorado Court of Appeals. Judge Kennelly graduated with honors from the University of New Mexico School of Law, where she was Co-Editor-In-Chief of the Natural Resources Journal and recipient of the Albert E. Utton Natural Resources Law Award.
She earned her B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Environmental Studies from Baldwin-Wallace College in 1997. Prior to moving to New Mexico in 2004, Judge Kennelly was a third-generation police officer for six years in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, and played in Cleveland’s USFTL women’s football league for eight years.
Judge Kennelly is an active acequia parciante, outdoorsperson, and supporter of the arts in northern New Mexico.
Jeffrey A. Shannon
District Court Judge
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
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.
Magistrate Judge, Colfax County - Springer
Magistrate Judge, Colfax County - Raton
Mary Louise Harkins
Magistrate Judge, Union County