Ruidoso Downs judge, mayor at odds over court scheduling

Updated: 06/17/2014 5:31 PM | Created: 06/17/2014 5:29 PM
By: Lauren Hansard, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Fighting a traffic ticket in a parking lot?

That could be a reality soon for one New Mexico community.

A judge in Ruidoso Downs says city officials are placing impossible requirements on his courtroom.

Harrold Mansell has been the judge in Ruidoso Downs for 26 years.

His courtroom also serves as the city council chamber.

But Mansell says on June 6, he got a letter from Mayor Gary Williams indicating the chambers could no longer be used for court.

“The first letter came in saying we could not use it," said Mansell.

The city attorney tells KOB Eyewitness News 4 that letter was a mistake.

Three days later, a second letter came in saying the judge could use the chambers, but only if he gave a 24 hour notice.

Which Mansell says is impossible.

“I must be in control of my court at all times and the 24 hours is just ludicrous,” said Mansell.  “I mean you cannot set a trial in 24 hours."

The city clerk and the mayor would not comment.

But the city attorney says they are requiring a 24 hour notice for scheduling purposes.

The city wants to make sure it doesn’t overbook.

But Mansell says if he can’t use the chambers, the only other option for court is the parking lot.   

“In front of the building is the only place we got to go," said Mansell.

He says he doesn’t understand why after two decades, things are changing now.

“Just go back like it was, I mean for 26 years,” said Mansell.  “If it's not broke, don't fix it."

Mansell says he plans to take the 24 hour requirement to district court.

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