The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989

Crime Scene

Ex-police chief Montijo drops suit against Bernalillo

The last vestige of Ramon “Mojo” Montijo's tumultuous tenure as Bernalillo police chief faded away in December, when he dropped his federal lawsuit against the town.

“Win, lose, or draw, it's not going to change the political structure in Bernalillo,” Montijo told the Signpost. “We'll just get on with our lives.”

Hired in April 2003, Montijo ignited a firestorm with an audit of department property and the evidence vault which revealed shoddy recordkeeping and missing weapons. He also reopened a burglary case in which a town officer had been named as a suspect.

Outside investigations confirmed some of the problems but did not result in any prosecutions.

In the meantime, Montijo's relationship with town leaders soured, and he was suspended twice before being fired in October 2003. Last February he sued the town, the mayor and several administrators, alleging violation of labor laws and his rights.

“We were bound and determined not to settle for anything,” town administrator Lester Swindle said. “I think they finally got the news we weren't going to capitulate and that he didn't have anything on us.”

Montijo has since become the program director for criminal justice and fire science at the Doña Ana Branch Community College in Las Cruces.

Adult Drug Court comes to Sandoval County

District Judges Louis P. McDonald and George P. Eichwald have recently implemented an Adult Drug Court for Sandoval County. The pilot program began accepting adults involved in the criminal-justice system this summer.

Adult Drug Court requires a one-year commitment from its participants. Successful completion of the program means criminal charges may be dismissed or a participant may receive early discharge from probation, or both. The program strongly emphasizes frequent drug testing and therapeutic treatment, not only for substance abuse but also in other aspects of each participant's life. During their time in drug court, participants must remain drug-free, have a job, or go to school. Participants who are not in jobs or school are required to perform volunteer work. Participants must also attend the weekly drug court and submit to at least two random drug tests each week when in the first phase of the program.

The Adult Drug Court has four structured phases each participant must successfully complete before graduation from the program. There is also an aftercare component for graduates of the drug court. Those who do not comply with the requirements of the program are firmly and swiftly sanctioned. For example, participants who miss an individual therapy session may be ordered to perform community service. Any positive drug test results in immediate jail time.

The director of Adult Drug Court is Chris Weaver, who has worked as an adult probation officer for twenty-five years. In 1987, Weaver came to work in the Sandoval County Adult Probation Office, spending his last eight years in that office as supervisor.

Under the current staffing and budget of the program, Weaver can accept up to twelve participants at one time. He says that the mission of the Adult Drug Court is straightforward: to make communities safer by reducing substance abuse and the number of repeat offenders by providing an array of services from a wide range of community sources.

District court expands alternative dispute-resolution programs

Chief Judge Louis P. McDonald of the Thirteenth Judicial District Court is pleased to report the expansion of the court's alternative dispute-resolution programs.

The Thirteenth Judicial District Court provides both mediation and settlement facilitation as ADR options to traditional litigation throughout the Thirteenth Judicial District in Cibola, Valencia, and Sandoval Counties. Both mediation and settlement facilitation are ADR processes in which a neutral third party meets with the parties involved in the cases to identify areas of agreement and disagreement and to assist them in reaching a resolution that meets their needs and interests. The programs currently include Magistrate Court, Children's Court (Abuse and Neglect), Domestic Relations, and Civil ADR.

With the coordination of the director of ADR Programs, Teresa Berry, the district court recently expanded small-claims mediation to all the magistrate courts in Cibola, Valencia and Sandoval Counties. The court also recently approved a program to provide ADR services to all other civil cases at District Court.
The Thirteenth Judicial District Magistrate Court Mediation Program is a program in which volunteers work within the court system to help people resolve their small claims cases through mediation. This program provides a great opportunity to become more involved with your local magistrate courts. For more information about the program and to learn about how to become a magistrate court mediator, contact Marianela Gish, program coordinator and mediator mentor, at 830-9664.

The recently introduced Civil ADR program may apply to all civil lawsuits by request of the parties or the court. The panel of “neutrals” will include attorneys and other ADR professionals with specific subject area knowledge. Fees for mediators in civil cases in which damages sought do not exceed $10,000 may be paid by the court.

For more information about the ADR programs in the Thirteenth Judicial District, please contact Teresa Berry, at 235-3525 or




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