New Mexico courts resume more in-person hearings

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — State courts had to make drastic changes to keep cases moving through the system, but on Monday they are now back open to the public with precautions still in place.

Chief Judge Maria Dominguez with Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court said it’s good to be back.

"It’s very important for the court to resume practice as we have done over the last 100 years or so," Judge Dominguez said.

Since March of 2020, pretty much everything court-related has been done virtually because of COVID-19. Now, it’s all changing once again.

“Many of the criminal hearings are in-person starting today," Judge Dominguez said.

Several procedures like sentencing and plea hearings are back inside the courtroom, but Judge Dominguez said they are not running at 100% for right now.

"I would say about 70%," Judge Dominguez said.

Some procedures in the civil division are still being done virtually for the time being.

Before the pandemic, Metro Court would see about 3,500 people a day. Then during the pandemic, it was about 50 people per day. Now with courts reopening, Judge Dominguez expects around 500 visitors a day.

"We don’t want to lose any efficiencies that we actually have gained through the pandemic," Judge Dominguez said. "We are not quite out of this and so we have to make sure that we are being as safe as possible."

Those who need to enter the courthouse will have to answer some preliminary screening questions before they are allowed to enter.

Social distancing guidelines will still be in place and even if you are fully vaccinated, you must wear a mask at all times. The court recommends those who need to appear in-person should show up about 30 minutes early.

The court has also been mailing updated notices for in-person hearings.

If you are unsure if you need to show up in-person or remotely, call the court at (505) 841-8151.