After more than 30 years as an attorney in private practice, Thomas E. Lilley will have to get used to being called “Your Honor.”
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham appointed Lilley Thursday to fill a vacancy on the Fifth Judicial District Court, according to a press release issued by Lujan Grisham’s office.
Lilley, 61, of Roswell will occupy the Fifth Judicial District Division II seat that was held by Judge Fredrick Romero. Romero, who had been on the bench since 2005 when he was appointed by then-Gov. Bill Richardson retired Feb. 28.
In an interview Thursday, Lilley confirmed the governor had called him earlier in the day and said he is “very excited” about being appointed.
“It’s a huge honor and I’m also humbled,” Lilley said.
Jared Garner Kallunki — a public defender from Roswell — was also considered by Lujan Grisham for the vacancy.
If Lilley wants to retain his new job, he will have to run for a full term in November 2020. A registered Democrat, he said that he intends to do that.
Lilley added that he submitted his application for the open position in early March. His application was then considered by the Judicial Nominating Commission at a hearing in late March in Roswell where candidates were interviewed.
The New Mexico Constitution requires a Judicial Nominating Commission comprised of New Mexico citizens, attorneys, judges and chaired by the Dean of the University of New Mexico School of Law to fill judicial vacancies, according to the website of the University of New Mexico School of Law.
Names of qualified nominees are then presented to the governor who appoints someone to the seat.
A Roswell native, Lilley holds a Bachelor of Arts in government from New Mexico State University and a law degree from the New Mexico School of Law. He was admitted to the New Mexico Bar that same year and is a member of the Chaves County Bar Association. He is married to Cathy Lilley and has seven children.
Lilley said he has practiced law in a variety of different areas, but he has primarily represented clients in personal injury and criminal defense cases.
The chance to put his experience to work helping the community is why Lilley said he applied for the position. He said that he does not know when he will be sworn in, but said given that the seat has been vacant since late February, he imagines that people will be eager for him to start soon.
“I look forward to the challenges the job presents and I look forward to filling Judge Romero’s shoes,” Lilley said.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.