New Mexico Court Records
Instant Access to State, County and Municipal Public Records
Are New Mexico Court Records Public?
Yes, in the U.S. state of New Mexico, most court records are accessible to the public. This is made possible by the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Acts, NMSA (1978) 14-2-1 et seq. Pursuant to the act, residents have the right to access public records maintained by all government levels. However, this freedom is not absolute as the act also restricts public access to a few records. Typically juvenile court records are exempted from public access.
The New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act was first enacted in 1925, and the latest amendments occurred in the 1990s. The act promotes a sense of transparency and safeguards the accountability of the government.
How Do I Find Court Records In New Mexico?
The first step to take when trying to obtain New Mexico court records is to identify the court where the case was filed and heard. Court clerks are the custodians of court records, and an essential part of their job is to respond to court records requests. The Supreme Court Clerk is the official custodian of records for the Supreme Court of New Mexico, while the Appeals Court Clerk maintains all records for the Court of Appeals, New Mexico, per the IPRA. Most civil and criminal case records are usually maintained in the New Mexico District Court or Magistrate Court, or the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court, where the cases were filed.
The next step is to make a written request for the record sought. Requests can be made in person, by mail, or by filling an IPRA request form online. Requestors must specify with as much detail as possible the records requested. The record request should include a case number and the names of the people involved in the case. For in-person requests, the Supreme Court documents may be inspected at the Court Clerk’s office during regular business hours.
To submit an IPRA request for a supreme court record, contact the Supreme Court Clerk in person, by telephone, by regular mail, or by email. The requester may be required to present a valid government-issued photo I.D., especially for mail-in requests. Applicable fees must also be paid to obtain copies of court records in the state. The Supreme Court Clerk may be contacted at:
Supreme Court of New Mexico
P.O. Box 848
Santa Fe, NM 87504–0848
Phone: (505) 827-4860
Hours: 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Mondays to Fridays
The Court Clerk of New Mexico Court of Appeals may be contacted using the information below:
Supreme Court Building
237 Don Gaspar, Room 116
Santa Fe, NM 87501
P.O. Box 2008
Santa Fe, NM 87504-2008
Phone: (505) 827-4925
Fax: (505) 827-4946
Hours: 8:30 a.m – 5:00 p.m, Mondays to Fridays
The contact information for New Mexico courts is available on the website of the Judicial Branch. Also, the State Courts Map shows the judicial districts and physical locations of courts. These resources can assist requestors in determining where to direct their public records request.
The state authorizes court Clerks to charge fees for copying and certifying public records:
- A fee of $0.50 per page, charged for a photocopy of a court record
- A fee of $1.00 per page, charged for a computer-generated or electronically transferred copy of a court record
- An additional $0.50 per page, charged for certified copies of a court record
- A fee of $5.00 per CD, charged for a copy of a court hearing
The Judicial Branch of New Mexico also provides online access through New Mexico Courts CaseLookup and the Secured Odyssey Public Access (SOPA). Interested applicants can access records by carrying out searches using the case number or the names of the persons involved in the case. It can also be used to get the case number assigned to court cases.
Considered open to citizens of the United States, public records are available through both traditional sources, government sources, and through third-party websites and organizations. In many cases, third-party websites make the search easier as they are not limited geographically or by technological limitations. They are considered a good place to start when looking for a specific record or multiple records. To gain access to these records, interested parties must typically provide:
- The name of the person listed in the record. Juveniles are typically exempt from this search method.
- The last known or assumed location of the person listed in the record. This includes cities, counties, and states.
While third-party sites offer such services, they are not government-sponsored entities, and record availability may vary on these sites when compared to government sources.
How Do New Mexico Courts Work?
The New Mexico court system provides residents with various programs and services to assist with their legal matters. In New Mexico, there is one federal District Court, a state Supreme Court, a state Court of Appeals, and Trial Courts (Magistrate Court, Municipal Court, Probate Court, and Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court) with both general and limited jurisdiction. These courts serve different purposes in the legal system of New Mexico. The United States District Court for the District of New Mexico is one of 94 United States district courts. The district operates out of courtrooms in Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Santa Fe, and Roswell. Decisions of the court are appealed to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals located in downtown Denver at the Byron White Federal Courthouse.
In the New Mexico Judicial System, litigants have the right to appeal the decision of a lower court before a higher one if such judgment is not satisfactory. The District Court first hears appeal cases from the Trial Courts (Magistrate Court, Municipal Court, Probate Court, and Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court). From there, such cases can be filed with the New Mexico Court of Appeals. However, there are some cases where Trial Courts appeal directly to the New Mexico Supreme Court. This occurs when the case in question falls directly under the jurisdiction of the apex Court. These include:
- Criminal matters involving life imprisonment or the death penalty
- Cases involving the Public Regulation Commission
- Writs of habeas corpus appeals,
- All matters involving election/ nomination challenge
- Matters concerning the removal of public officials.
However, the New Mexico Supreme Court’s most crucial duty is to review decisions made by the Court of Appeals. This allows it to weigh in on conflicts, important questions of law, and precedents when needed. When the Supreme Court passes a judgment, it is final and binding on all state courts. The decision may only be reviewed by the Federal Supreme Court.
The Court of Appeals fulfills a similar role to the Trial Courts. Acting in its capacity as the intermediate appellate court in the state, it oversees and reviews the lower courts’ decisions made up of the 33 Superior/ Trial Courts located across New Mexico’s 33 counties. The Court of Appeals has mandatory jurisdiction in civil, non-capital criminal, and juvenile cases. It also has discretionary jurisdiction in interlocutory decision cases and administrative agency appeals.
To file for an appeal with the Court of Appeals, the parties appealing must submit all briefs and relevant documents from the proceedings of the Trial Court that passed the judgment. The court has ten judges who sit in panels of three to decide on cases. The Court of Appeals does not admit new evidence; the court’s final decision is based on the appealing parties’ submitted documents and oral presentations. After presentations, the judges review the documents and pass a judgment. If the appealing parties are still not satisfied, they may then appeal to the Supreme Court.
The New Mexico Court of Appeals has offices in Santa Fe and Albuquerque.
What Are Civil Court and Small Claims?
In New Mexico, Civil Courts hear civil cases involving conflicts between people or businesses. Civil cases generally involve personal injury, property damage, defamation, breach of contract, debt repayment, and landlord-tenant disputes. In New Mexico civil cases, the petitioner seeks over $250,000 in damages. About 250,000 civil cases are filed annually in New Mexico. On the other hand, New Mexico Small Claims Courts have jurisdiction over cases where the litigant sues another for $10,000 or less.
The procedure for trying small claims is usually less formal, less expensive, and simpler than the regular civil courts’ proceedings in the state. Also, litigants do not need to be represented by counsel. They are allowed to represent themselves in the court to reduce costs. However, the petitioner must pay filing costs and be 18 years old or more (the court requires a guardian for litigants under 18 years). Filing fees depend on the claim demanded but are generally not beyond $250 in Illinois. Close to 100,000 small claims cases are filed in New Mexico per year. These include disputes over warranties, deposits, repairs, loans, and more. The small claims court has the power to order a defendant to pay a certain amount of money.
In a small claims court, pretrial discovery is not allowed, but the civil court allows it. It is also strongly advised to hire an attorney to file necessary documents and represent the petitioner in a civil case. Whereas petitioners must represent themselves in a small claims court, and there are no complicated papers to file. Civil court cases are more expensive than small claims. It costs between $180 to $320 to file a civil lawsuit, and each party is given up to 120 days. In contrast, small claims cases cost between $30 and $100 per claim, and the parties are given 30 to 70 days for the case to be completed.
What Are Appeal Court Limits?
An appeal is a petition filed to a higher court to request the review of a case that has already been decided, usually to establish or correct a presumed error in the judgment passed by a lower court or tribunal. The higher court may affirm, vary, or reverse the original decision. Every final judgment of a trial court in a civil case is appealable by law. Appeals are time-bound, and the appellant must take certain required steps not to lose the right to appeal. For instance, to appeal a Municipal Court sentence, it is mandatory to file a Notice of Appeal within 15 days. The notice must be filed with the District Court in the county the Municipal Court passed the sentence. Also, a docket fee of $10 must be paid to the District Court when filing the notice, and a copy of the notice must be delivered to the Municipal Court. Only when these actions are taken is the right to an appeal secured.
What Are New Mexico Judgment Records?
New Mexico judgment records are court documents describing the court's conclusion and the remedy for the civil complaint or penalties for the criminal charges against an individual. The clerk of courts is the designated record custodian for these records. Per the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act, the clerk is statutorily obligated to make copies of the court record available to interested members of the public. However, it is the requester's responsibility to provide the necessary details to identify the judgment record of interest and pay for the associated costs of reproducing the documents.
Generally, a New Mexico judgment records search begins at the clerk's office. This office is located in the courthouse where the case was adjudicated — an excellent place to start is the county where the incident happened or where the litigants reportedly initiated the lawsuit. Once at the clerk's office, provide the administrative staff with the case number and details to facilitate the search, including the litigants' names and the judge's name.
The information contained in New Mexico judgment records varies with case type. Nevertheless, a typical judgment record contains the litigants' names, the judge's name, and the judgment date. Persons who obtain judgment records can also expect to see the litigants' claims and the court's decision on the lawsuit.
What are New Mexico bankruptcy records?
New Mexico bankruptcy records provide financial information about a debtor who has filed for bankruptcy. Individuals and corporations in New Mexico can petition for bankruptcy. In New Mexico, Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 are the most commonly filed. Individuals who find it impossible to pay off their debts apply for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, whereas debtors who do not want to lose their assets file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Chapter 13 provides for a repayment plan as they pay back debt owing to creditors.
Note: While bankruptcy provides debtors with a fresh start, it also has an impact on their capacity to borrow money from creditors in the future, since bankruptcy impacts their credit record for seven to 10 years.
Bankruptcy records, as well as records of judgments, writs, foreclosures, and New Mexico liens, can be obtained by interested and eligible members of the public on request. However, requestors may be required to provide the information to facilitate the record search and cover the cost of reproduction or duplication of these records, where applicable.
How Do I Find My Case Number In New Mexico?
Interested persons can obtain case numbers from the clerk of the court where the case was filed. These unique numbers are assigned to cases to differentiate them and make for easy identification. Each digit indicates a piece of unique information about the case assigned. Supreme Court and Court of Appeals case numbers have four parts that indicate the type of court, court location code, the case category, and sequential listing. In contrast, case numbers for Trial Courts Cases (District, Magistrate, Metropolitan, Municipal) comprise five unique parts representing the type of court, court location code, case category, the year, and the sequence.
To obtain a case number, interested persons must request it from the court clerk where the cases were filed. This may be done online by utilizing the New Mexico Courts CaseLookup application. For in-person requests, visit the office physically or mail a request addressed to the court clerk's office.
Can You Look Up Court Cases In New Mexico?
Yes. The Judicial Branch of New Mexico provides two online platforms for interested applicants to look up civil and criminal court cases. The first is New Mexico CaseLookup, which requires no registration. Interested applicants can access records by carrying out searches using the case number or the names of the persons involved in the case. It can also be used to get the case number assigned to court cases. Requestors using the online form to request magistrate or district court records must direct the request to the judicial district in which the court is located. Online records for the Municipal Court are limited to criminal Domestic Violence and DWI historic convictions from September 1, 1991.
The second platform is the Secured Odyssey Public Access (SOPA). Under the Policy for online court records, the SOPA grants online access to New Mexico Judiciary Secure Court Cases e-filed from the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, District Courts, Magistrate Courts, and Municipal Courts. Requestors are required to complete an application process to access case information.
Does New Mexico Hold Remote Trials?
In New Mexico, video conferencing and other electronic communication technology are allowed only in certain situations and proceedings for civil and criminal cases. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 43 allows video conference technology in civil cases, but only in limited circumstances. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the New Mexico Supreme Court on March 24, 2020, ordered all judges to conduct civil and criminal proceedings by video and teleconference. However, there is an exception for cases where an emergency in-person appearance is required. On April 16, 2020, the court extended the suspension of jury trials to May 29. In the order, the court announced that a maximum of 15 people would be allowed in the courtrooms and other parts of the courthouse. This is to promote social distancing. Also, judges were ordered to conduct civil and criminal proceedings through video or phone conferences.
Members of the public can observe a proceeding conducted by telephone or video remotely during the current public health emergency. To participate, interested persons must obtain the call-in number and PIN for the telephone or video conference. To obtain the numbers, visit the particular judge's calendar webpage handling the case webpage or the District Court judges webpage. These are some of the measures taken to safeguard both the court staff and the general public's health against the COVID-19 pandemic. To get an update of each New Mexico court's response to the order, visit the public access portal on each court's official website.
What Is the New Mexico Supreme Court?
The New Mexico Supreme Court is the state's court of last resort, being the state's highest court. Its authority is defined and backed up by Article VI of the New Mexico Constitution. It is primarily an appellate court that reviews lower courts' civil and criminal decisions in the state, specifically Trial Courts of general jurisdiction and certain specialized legislative courts. It only has original jurisdiction in a limited number of actions. Alongside reviewing judgments passed by the lower courts, the Supreme Court also has administrative and supervisory authority over the state's lower courts. The court has the authority to discipline attorneys and judges for professional misconduct and unethical behavior. It is currently located in the New Mexico Supreme Court Building in Santa Fe.
The Supreme Court hears appeals from the New Mexico Court of Appeals as well as appeals from trial courts under these circumstances:
- Criminal cases involving a death penalty or life sentence.
- Cases where the trial granted a petition for writ of habeas corpus,
- Matters involving the Public Regulation Commission
- Matters on election challenges
- Cases involving writs of certiorari, mandamus, prohibition, and superintending control
Five justices serve at the Supreme Court. The ideal candidate must be thirty-five or above and must have not less than ten years of active law practice experience. Also, the candidate must have lived in New Mexico for three years before taking the bench. Each justice is either chosen by the governor or by a general election. Each justice serves an eight-year term. To fill a vacancy, a bi-partisan judicial nominating commission solicits, accepts, and evaluates applications for the seat and then submits a list of qualified applicants to the governor. The governor has thirty days to announce a new appointment. The justices then choose by a majority vote one of the members as the Chief Justice.
New Mexico Court of Appeals
The New Mexico Court of Appeals was created by a constitutional amendment on September 28, 1965. The appellate court originally started with four judges; between 1972 to 1978, it was expanded to seven judges, and by 1991, it was expanded to ten, which is still the case. The ten judges sit in panels of three to decide on cases. The court's jurisdiction covers the state district courts and a few state agencies.
The following case types are heard by the Court of Appeals in New Mexico:
- Civil, non-capital criminal, and juvenile cases (mandatory jurisdiction)
- Interlocutory decision cases and administrative agency appeals (discretionary jurisdiction).
New Mexico District Court
New Mexico District Courts have general jurisdiction and hold jury trials. There are thirteen different Judicial Districts in New Mexico: First Judicial District, Second Judicial District, Third Judicial District, Fourth Judicial District, Fifth Judicial District, Sixth Judicial District, Seventh Judicial District, Eighth Judicial District, Ninth Judicial District, Tenth Judicial District, Eleventh Judicial District, Twelfth Judicial District, and Thirteenth Judicial District. The District Courts have a total of Ninety-four judges.
The District Courts hear the following types of cases:
- Tort, contract, real property rights, and estate
- Exclusive domestic relations and mental health
- Appeals for administrative agencies and lower courts
- Miscellaneous civil jurisdiction
- Exclusive criminal appeals jurisdiction
- Exclusive juvenile jurisdiction
New Mexico Magistrate Court
New Mexico Magistrate Courts are courts of limited jurisdiction that decide cases through jury trials. There are 54 magistrate courts in the state, and sixty-seven judges preside over them.
New Mexico Magistrate courts hear the following types of cases:
- Tort, contract
- Small claims (landlord/tenant rights from $0 to $10,000).
- Felony preliminary hearings.
- Misdemeanor, DWI/DUI, and other traffic violations.
Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court
Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court (BCMC) is the Judicial system of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County's metropolitan areas. The courthouse is located in Downtown Albuquerque. It has limited jurisdiction and hears Jury trials. Nineteen judges serve in the BCMC, including a chief judge and one presiding judge for criminal and civil cases. Judges are elected by eligible voters in Bernalillo County and each judge holds a 4-year term in the 19 divisions of the court. Elections are partisan, and there are no term limits in the court system.
Eligibility requirements to hold an office in the Metropolitan Court include membership of the New Mexico Bar and at least three years of practice in New Mexico.
The court hears and decides on the following types of cases:
- Tort, contract, landlord/tenant rights ($0-10,000)
- Felony first appearance
- Misdemeanor, DWI/DUI
- Domestic Violence and other traffic violations
New Mexico Municipal Court
The New Mexico Municipal Courts are established to ensure a speedy and fair hearing. The New Mexico Legislature provided a Municipal Court in each city, town, and village in New Mexico. Any municipality with a population greater than 1,500 must have a Municipal Court. Smaller communities may choose whether or not to have a Municipal Court. Currently, Municipal Courts exist in 81 municipalities in the state.
Municipal courts have limited jurisdiction and do not hold Jury trials. These courts only hear cases involving a violation of municipal ordinances. There are eighty-one Municipal Courts scattered across the 33 counties of New Mexico state. Eighty-three judges serve in these courts to preside over the following types of cases:
- Petty misdemeanors, DWI/DUI,
- Traffic violations
- Other municipal ordinance violations.
New Mexico Probate Court
New Mexico Probate Court handles probate cases. Its jurisdiction is limited to probate, will, and estate matters. It does not hold jury trials. The Probate Court's main responsibility is to admit wills to probate and appoint personal representatives to administer a decedent's estate. It also has the power to appoint special administrators to an estate.
A probate proceeding may be filed in a County Probate Court if the decedent was domiciled in the county at the time of death (i.e., the county was the permanent place of residence for the decedent's). Also, if the decedent lived outside of New Mexico but owned property in the county, a probate proceeding can be filed in the county. The Probate Court also provides general information about the probate process and access to probate files (searches). The court has thirty-three judges, each representing one of the thirty-three counties in New Mexico.
The court hears these types of cases:
- Informal probate;
- Estate (uncontested cases) District Courts handle contested estate cases.