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Local judge sworn in to 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

Judge Joel Carson III takes the oath of office as it is administered by his former employer, Senior Judge Bobby Baldock, also one of the 20 judges serving on the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Joel’s wife, Karen, holds the Bible. The Carson children also are on stage. Senior Judge Monroe G. McKay, at right, and 13 other justices attended Friday’s ceremony at Pearson Auditorium. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Promising to work his hardest to “discharge the duties of this job with honor and diligence” and to “uphold the high morality and collegiality this court has had for the entire time I have been practicing law,” Joel M. Carson III of Roswell was sworn in as a judge to the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals during an investiture ceremony Friday afternoon in the Pearson Auditorium on the New Mexico Military Institute campus.

The ceremony,  both “solemn and festive,” in the words of one of the speakers, comes more than three months after Carson’s confirmation by the U.S. Senate. He was nominated by President Donald Trump on Dec. 20, 2017.

Born in Artesia and practicing law in Roswell for 21 years since earning his law degree from the University of New Mexico, Carson has been working in his chambers in the Joe Skeen Federal Building in Roswell since his May 15 confirmation.

“I’ve mostly been working as a district court judge,” he said after the ceremony. “The chief judge can designate you as a trial judge, so most of the summer I’ve been doing that for the (U.S.) District of New Mexico.”

He said he soon will turn his focus to Court of Appeals cases, hearing oral arguments at the end of the month.

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The court, which has its headquarters in Denver, Colorado, hears immigration, criminal, civil and tribal appeals from the states of Colorado, Kansas, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming and Oklahoma.

Carson is the third lawyer from the region to be named to the 10th Circuit and one of 10 federal judges from the area, which one speaker attributed not only to the drive, intelligence and work ethics of the individuals but to the standards and professionalism of the Chaves County Bar Association.

Carson was often emotional during his remarks at a ceremony attended by more than 100 people, including a large contingent of family, Gov. Susana Martinez and others in her administration, state legislators, local elected officials and fellow lawyers and judges.

His speech focused primarily on his gratitude to friends, colleagues and family. “All of these people mean so much to me and have influenced me so much,” he said.

He was especially overcome by emotion during his remarks about Senior Judge Bobby Baldock, a member of the Court of Appeals since 1983 and the judge for whom Carson clerked straight out of law school in 1997.

“He chose me as a law clerk and he had a lot better choices, and I will leave it at that,” he said. He did add, however, that Baldock was known as a “master of legal analysis” and did all he could to pass along that knowledge to him and other clerks.

For his part, Baldock, who administered the oath of office, chose to address Carson’s sons, Joel IV, or J.C., and Christopher, telling them that they need no other role model and recalling that their father distinguished himself as a clerk by being reliable, a hard worker, willing to take on all assignments and steadfastly devoted to the law.

“Your dad possesses many admirable qualities, not just as an honorable judge but also as an honorable man,” Baldock said.

Other speakers included father Joel Carson II, also a lawyer, and lawyers Richard E. Olson, Donald M. Shawler, R.E. Thompson and Christine M. Landavazo.

Landavazo and Carson have known each other since the first day of law school in 1994, and her remarks centered on their strong friendship through the years in spite of their philosophical differences, with her a liberal Democrat and him a conservative Republican. She described a man who, in spite of being known for using a favorite curse word now and then during debates, has a reputation for remaining calm, steady, respectful and capable no matter how stressful or difficult the circumstances.

“In this era of the ‘Me Too’ movement, I think it is very important to call out the decent men who deserve our respect,” she said. “Joel is one of those decent men. In fact, Joel is the man who I would encourage my daughter to clerk for some day and that is quite an endorsement from a slightly overindulgent mom.”

Gov. Martinez said after the ceremony that she considers Carson a friend.

“It gives me such absolute joy to see him appointed,” she said. “There couldn’t have been a better selection for this position. I’ve known him as a friend and I’ve known him as a lawyer, and I just think that we are privileged to have him sitting on the Court of Appeals. To see him here and be so humble while everyone was speaking — that is him. And I wish the absolute best for him and his family.”

Carson earned his bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University in 1994. After receiving his law degree in 1997, he clerked for Baldock for two years.

Carson then joined the Hinkle Shanor law firm, working there until he was named the first general counsel for the Mack Energy Corp. of Artesia in 2008. In 2013, he left the energy company to open Carson Ryan LLC with attorney Beth Ryan. He also served as a part-time U.S. magistrate judge from 2015 to 2018.

Carson was appointed to the Court of Appeals upon the retirement of Paul Joseph Kelly Jr. of Santa Fe, who had served with the court from 1992 to 2017.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.