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Locals see 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in action

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The exterior of the Joe Skeen Federal Building and United States Courthouse on Richardson Avenue. (Alex Ross Photo)

Local residents got a rare chance to see the federal courts in action, when a three-judge panel from the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit was in Roswell Friday to hear oral arguments in four cases.

Circuit courts are the intermediate appellate courts between district courts and the Supreme Court of the United States, according to the 10th Circuit’s website.

The 10th Circuit’s jurisdiction includes the states of New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, Utah and Wyoming, along with the portions of Yellowstone National Park that extend into Montana and Idaho, according to the website.

For two and a half hours, members of the public, including high school students, current and former elected officials and law clerks lined the benches of the courtroom on the third floor of the Joe Skeen Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse on Richardson Avenue.

The three-judge panel was composed of Chief Judge Timothy M. Tymkovich and Judges Bobby Baldock and Joel Carson — the latter two former attorneys in Roswell.

Baldock was nominated by President Ronald Reagan and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to the Court in 1986, while Carson was nominated by President Donald Trump and was sworn into the court last year.

Tymkovich welcomed the audience. He said that he, Baldock and Carson were especially glad to be in Roswell because of the day’s proximity to Law Day.

Law Day is a national day set aside each May 1 to celebrate the rule of law in the U.S., according to the website of the American Bar Association.

He added the appearance was significant for another reason: the joint appearance by Carson and Baldock marked the first time the two jurists from Roswell were at the courthouse together in their capacity as judges to hear arguments.

“So this is a historic morning indeed for the community and the 10th Circuit Court,” Tymkovich said.

For some in the audience, the day had personal significance.

Before oral arguments, Catherine Malone — a law clerk for Carson — was sworn in as a member of the bar of the Circuit Court of Appeals.

All counsel who enter an appearance or intend to represent any party in the Court of Appeals must be admitted to the bar of the court, according to the Court’s website.

“She is definitely worthy of being sworn into this bar,” Carson said before Malone took the oath.

Malone said in an interview that she was very excited about being admitted to the bar.

She added that in order for anyone to be admitted to the 10th Circuit Bar, a person must complete an eight-month clerkship, be a member of a state bar and someone must move for her admission.

Malone said she has wanted to be an attorney as far back as she can remember.

“I’m very proud and excited, especially since my family can be here, she said.

Malone’s father, mother and sister had come in from Modesto, California for her swearing in. Gene Malone said that for his daughter, the day is the culmination of years of hard work and study.

“Obviously, we are very, very proud of her,” Gene Malone said.

Seniors at Roswell High School’s Advanced Placement Government and Politics class were also in the audience, watching the legal system at work.

“It’s kind of cool to see everyone in action,” Yadira Landaverde, a student in the class said.

Landaverde’s classmate, Aurora Vega, said she does not have aspirations to practice law, but that it does have a relation to a career that she does want.

“I actually want to go into social work and that has to do a little bit with law,” Vega said.

Randy Lykins, the teacher of the class, said that all his students in the courtroom that day are seniors and he wants to teach his students about the judicial system.

“And anytime they (the students) can come up and see something like this, it is a high learning experience,” he said.

Alice Eppers, a former member of the Chaves County Board of Commissioners, said the hearing was the first time she had heard oral arguments at the courthouse. She said the fact the three judges decided to come to Roswell was a big deal.

“They didn’t have to come here, they could have gone to one of the bigger cities,” Eppers said after the arguments concluded.

The cases heard by the court Friday were:

• United States v. Sweargin

• United States v. Warwick

• United States v. Lopez-Urbina

• Contreras v. Dona Ana County Board, et. al

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.