Professor Leo Romero continues to shape New Mexico's legal system

May 13, 2015 - Tamara Williams

Professor Leo Romero
Professor Leo Romero
Professor Leo Romero was appointed Chair of the Ad Hoc Pretrial Release Committee by the NM Supreme Court.

For decades, former Dean and Professor Emeritus Leo Romero helped shape New Mexico’s legal system both through his scholarship in criminal law and procedure and by overseeing the development of selecting judges.

A few months ago, the New Mexico Supreme Court appointed him chair of an Ad Hoc Pretrial Release Committee. Now he has the opportunity to influence potential changes to the rules of criminal procedure regarding pretrial release.

The propriety of using bail bond schedules

At issue is the propriety of using bail bond schedules. Bail schedules, administered by jail officials, list the crimes subject to release on bail upon the posting of a money bond specified in the schedule.

An arrested person who posts the amount of money in the schedule will be released from jail before appearing before a judge. If the arrested person does not have the resources to post the bail bond in the schedule, he or she may purchase a bail bond from a commercial bond company, usually at 10 percent of the bond. A person who cannot post or purchase a bond will be held until he or she can be seen by a judge, usually the next day, who will determine the conditions of release pending trial.

Committee to make recommendations for bail reform

The court order appointing the Ad Hoc committee pointed to the 2014 case, State v. Brown, in which the Court concluded that a district court erred by requiring a $250,000 bond when the evidence demonstrated that less restrictive conditions of pretrial release would be sufficient to assure the defendant’s appearance in court and safety to the community.

The court order concludes that Brown "has led to uncertainty and disagreement among the bench, bar, and general public concerning the propriety of using bail schedules."

The 18-member Ad Hoc Pretrial Release Committee, comprised of representatives from the criminal defense bar, prosecution, judges, bail industry representatives, jail and detention center representatives, and legislative representatives, will submit recommendations to the court regarding the use of bail schedules in New Mexico.

Public hearing at the law school

Recently the committee held public hearings at the law school in order to provide an opportunity for public input on the use of bail schedules. The committee also solicited written comments before drafting recommendations for the Supreme Court.

Albuquerque Journal staff reporter Scott Sandlin wrote about the public hearing in the article, "Decision may prompt bail reform in New Mexico" published April 19.

Romero is quoted several times in the article. He says that there’s a lot of movement on bail reform nationally although the idea of a bond schedule "conflicts with the Brown opinion." He also provided insight into bail bond schedules in other areas.