Until Jeff Shannon became a Taos County Magistrate Judge in 2012, he said he'd always been the new guy. With an Air Force man for a father, he grew up on military bases, moving about every four years. …
Until Jeff Shannon became a Taos County Magistrate Judge in 2012, he said he'd always been the new guy.
With an Air Force man for a father, he grew up on military bases, moving about every four years. Change was a constant, but his desire to get involved in law stayed with him, he said.
"If you look at my high school yearbook in Las Vegas, Nevada, it's signed 'esquire,' " he said.
From there, Shannon acquired his bachelor's from Auburn University at Montgomery (Alabama) in 1991, and then his masters from the University of Alabama in 1993. He moved to New Mexico in 1999, where he graduated from the University of New Mexico School of Law, an asset that, while not a requirement for his current position, sets him apart from his competition this year.
Before he became a judge, however, he fulfilled his ambitions of becoming a lawyer and became a public defender in Taos in the early 2000s. From 2004 until his election in 2012, he ran a private law practice, which specialized in child abuse and neglect cases. He also served as a criminal defense attorney at the Alan Maestas Law Office before his election.
"Since 2012, I have striven every day to treat everyone fairly," he said.
He's also been busy making the courtroom his own.
He said he reduced jury duty from six months to three, always conducts criminal background checks on defendants, orders drunk driving offenders to perform additional community service and even keeps crayons and coloring books handy for kids in the courtroom.
Child abuse cases also continue to be an emphasis for Shannon. He says he will "routinely" report suspected child abuse or neglect to the Taos Children Youth and Families Office himself.
While Shannon said he and Chief Judge Ernest Ortega don't always see eye-to-eye, the two do overlap in their desire to restore the Questa circuit court, which was shuttered last year, and will also join Ortega in pushing the powers that be in Santa Fe to open an additional circuit court to serve Peñasco.
Staffing issues are also a common concern. The pair both rely on the clerk's office and it's thinned out staff to keep an ever-mounting caseload moving through their courtrooms.
"Due to staffing issues, Santa Fe has directed that the court remain closed every Friday so that clerks can catch up on paperwork," Shannon noted. "This needs to change. Our court should be sufficiently staffed to stay open five days a week."
If re-elected, Shannon said he will also push for a separate court to handle DUI and domestic violence cases.
What lies at the root of the cases he sees?
"Unemployment and a loss of hope," he said. "This creates an environment for drugs, alcohol and crime."
There's more to it, he said, but as a judge his emphasis remains on protecting local youth, many of whom he knows can get caught in the middle of the criminal and social challenges Taos County continues to face.
- John Miller
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