Following decades in private practice, Thomas E. Lilley donned his black judicial robe after being sworn in Wednesday as the Fifth Judicial District’s new Division II judge during an investiture ceremony in the courtroom at the Chaves County Courthouse in Roswell.
A Roswell native and longtime attorney in private practice, Lilley was selected in April by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to fill the seat left vacant in late February with the retirement of Judge Frederick Romero.
If he wants to retain the seat, Lilley will have to run for election to a full term in 2020, something Lilley, a Democrat, has said he plans to do.
“I present to you the Honorable Thomas E. Lilley,” James Hudson, also a Fifth Judicial District Judge, told the audience after administering the oath.
Lilley told the judges, courthouse staff, local attorneys and city and county employees who were present — along with his friends and family — that the investiture is something he had been looking forward to.
“I’m excited to get to work, I have been looking forward to this for a long time,” he said. The chance to work alongside Hudson and fellow District Judges Kea Riggs and Dustin Hunter is something Lilley said made him feel like he had been drafted onto a winning team.
Though he has been well acquainted with employees at the courthouse, Lilley said his appreciation for them has grown since he started to transition into his new job.
Lilley praised Romero, who was in the audience during the investiture. He called the retired jurist a wonderful human being and great judge. He also talked about the recently deceased State District Court Judge Alvin Jones, who was a neighbor of Lilley. Jones died in May after being struck by a vehicle while riding along West Second Street on his bicycle.
Lilley said that after he had applied and then accepted the job of judge, he frequently talked to Jones about it while the two neighbors stood at the end of their driveways.
He said he now inhabits Jones’ former office at the courthouse, something Lilley said he just discovered days ago,
“So hopefully a little bit of him will rub off on me,” he said.
Before Lilley was sworn in, his brother Michael Lilley and Doug Jones Witt, a local defense attorney, spoke.
Michael Lilley praised his younger brother as someone well-versed in negotiation and compromise, resourceful, said he possesses a strong work ethic and is someone able to relate to people from different walks of life.
“The legal community and the community as a whole will be well served by having Tom Lilley sit as a judge,” Michael Lilley said.
In his remarks before the crowd, Witt said Lilley is one of the smartest people he knows. He added that Lilley is quick on his feet and authentic in the courtroom.
“That authenticity comes because he actually cares about his clients,” Witt stated.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at email@example.com.