New Mexico State Court System

  • Magistrate Court: The Magistrate Court handles small claims civil cases with an amount in controversy of up to $10,000.
  • District Court: The District Court is the court of general jurisdiction in New Mexico, including general civil cases.
  • Court of Appeals: The New Mexico Court of Appeals is the intermediate level appellate court for the state. It has general appellate jurisdiction over district court cases.
  • New Mexico Supreme Court: The Supreme Court is the highest court in the state of New Mexico and hears appeals from the Court of Appeals and from the state trial courts.

*Some of the courts in the New Mexico Court System also have jurisdiction over other proceedings which are not covered here.

Pleadings

In the beginning stages of a lawsuit legal documents called pleadings are filed. To initiate the lawsuit, the plaintiff files a pleading called a Complaint which sets forth one or more causes of action against the defendant(s) named in the Complaint. After the Plaintiff files the Complaint and properly serves them on the Defendant(s), the Defendant(s) then have 30 days from the date of service to file a pleading called an Answer. The Defendant(s)’ Answer will respond to each of the causes of action in the Plaintiff’s Complaint and set forth any defenses, cross claims and/or counter claims the Defendant(s) will raise.

Discovery

After all parties to the lawsuit have filed pleadings, the case then proceeds to Discovery. Essentially, the discovery process is a fact-finding and investigative endeavor in which each party gathers information and evidence from opposing parties and/or non-party witnesses. While the discovery process includes a variety of other mechanisms used to gather information, it will generally consist of the following:

  • Written Discovery is generally used at the start of discovery and comes in two basic forms:

    • Interrogatories – Formal questions and/or requests for information served on one party by an opposing party. The party served with interrogatories must provide written responses to each of the interrogatories or respond with an objection to the interrogatory.
    • Requests for Production of Documents – Often served with a set of interrogatories, requests for production of documents are formal requests for certain documentation relevant to the claims and defenses raised in the pleadings.
  • Depositions – In a deposition, either a party to the lawsuit or a non-party witness will provide oral testimony under oath and in the presence of a court reporter who makes a written record of everything said during the deposition.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

New Mexico is heavily focused on creating a solid foundation for Alternative Dispute Resolution programs to thrive in lieu of a standard trial proceeding. The New Mexico ADR Commission was created on August 1, 2011 by Supreme Court Order 11-8110. The goal of the Commission is to develop, organize and monitor alternative dispute resolution programs throughout the state courts of New Mexico.

As it currently stands, a case in a New Mexico District Court may be referred to settlement facilitation by the Judge. Settlement facilitation is a form of mediation where the facilitator, or mediator, assists the parties in reaching a resolution, but does not dictate the terms of settlement. The facilitator or mediator helps the parties assess the strengths and weaknesses of their cases and may suggest a possible solution. However, the parties have the power to create their own mutually satisfactory agreement.

The cost of settlement facilitation can vary, but a typical facilitation will cost $500 for a half day. The cost is shared by the parties.

Trial

If the parties have not reached a settlement through mediation or otherwise, at the conclusion of discovery, the case then proceeds to trial. Depending on the complexity of the case, a trial can take as little as a single day or as long as several weeks to complete. At the conclusion of a typical civil trial, the jury will return a verdict for the plaintiff and award money damages to the plaintiff or the jury will return a verdict for the defendant finding that the defendant was not at fault.

Motions and Appeals

After a final judgment is entered, the party wishing to appeal must file a notice of appeal with the clerk within 15 days after the entry of the final judgment.

Recovery

According to New Mexico statutes section 39-1-20, a judgment rendered in New Mexico is valid for 7 years.

DISCLAIMER:

The law firm of Walker Morgan is located at 135 E Main St., Lexington, SC 29072. All lawyers at Walker Morgan are licensed to practice law in the State of South Carolina. Should you wish to retain our firm for legal representation regarding a potential case in any other jurisdiction we are required to associate local counsel in that foreign jurisdiction and seek permission from a court of the foreign jurisdiction to temporarily engage in the practice of law therein for purposes of pursuing your potential claim only.

By offering the following information the lawyers at Walker Morgan are not offering legal advice or legal guidance. The lawyers at Walker Morgan are not licensed to practice law in New Mexico. Should you have a question/concern specific to New Mexico law, please contact an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of New Mexico.