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First Judicial District Court

Tribunal del Primer Distrito Judicial

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The information contained here is offered to help you represent yourself in the District Court if you do not have a lawyer.

The information offered here is NOT legal advice and may not apply to every situation. It is STRONGLY recommended that you consult with a lawyer before making decisions or taking actions in your case. Most of the information contained in this page pertains to family law cases, for example, divorce, parentage (paternity), and child support.

Court staff CANNOT give legal advice. “Legal advice” is explaining the law to you, explaining how the law may apply to your case, telling you what form you need to file, or telling you what to do in your case. “Legal advice” also includes telling you what to put in the blanks of pleading forms. Court staff CANNOT fill out the forms for you or tell you how to fill out the forms. They can explain what information the forms are asking for, but you must fill in the forms in your own words. Court staff cannot tell you what you should do in a given situation. Asking, “what would you do if you were me” is asking for legal advice!

Please do not ask the court staff for legal advice.

If you are the Petitioner, Plaintiff, Respondent, or Defendant in a court case, and you do not have a lawyer to advise and represent you, you are a “Self-Represented Litigant” (“SRL”). “Litigant” means a party to a lawsuit.

You may also be referred to as a “Pro Se Litigant”. “Pro Se” means appearing for yourself.

If you are representing yourself, you are both your own lawyer and your own client.

You will be expected to be familiar with, and follow, the statutes (laws) that apply to your case as well as the Rules of Civil Procedure, including the Local Rules, and Rules of Evidence. There are no special rules for self-represented people! The same rules that apply to lawyers apply to you. If you do not follow the law and the rules you may permanently lose important rights.

The information on this website is not intended as legal advice, and does not substitute for seeking independent legal advice regarding the handling of a lawsuit or related legal matters.

Representing Yourself in Court

  1. When you do not have an attorney, you become your own attorney. You must follow the same rules that a lawyer must follow. If you fail to follow the rules, you may permanently lose important rights.

    Court employees may not give you legal advice about how to proceed in your lawsuit. Please do not ask court employees for legal advice.

  2. Every case is handled according to the laws and the Rules.

    There are two kinds of laws: Statutes are the laws passed by the legislature that apply to specific situations. Case law is when the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court interpret how a statute applies to a particular situation.

    Rules are made by the New Mexico Supreme Court for how courts operate. Rules have the force of law. Be sure you know what laws apply in your case.

    The Rules of Civil Procedure govern how a case proceeds: how it’s filed, how the parties are notified that someone has filed something, how long the other side has to respond, how long you have to respond, how you get information from the other party, etc. The documents that are filed in a lawsuit are called “pleadings”. The Rules tell you what information must be included in your pleadings.

    In addition, every judicial district has Local Rules that describe some procedures that are particular to that court.

    You must follow the Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Rules whenever you appear in court for any reason and whenever you file anything.

    The Rules of Evidence govern what a judge or hearing officer can hear, and how it’s presented in court. The judge can only hear information that is allowed by the Rules of Evidence.

    You may find the Rules and statutes at the Supreme Court Law Library. Be sure to study the statutes and Rules before you do anything.

  3. Do not try to talk to the judge or hearing officer in private! All your interactions with the judge or hearing officer will be in the formal setting of a courtroom, in “hearings”, which are governed by the Rules of Civil Procedure and Rules of Evidence.

    If you want to talk to the judge, or you want the judge to make a decision on an issue, you must ask for a hearing. To ask for a hearing, you must file a Motion that tells the judge what you want to talk about or what decision you want him or her to make. You file the Motion in the Court Clerk's Office, along with a Request for Hearing. These forms are available on the court's website under "Forms", and also at the Self Help Center.

    Be sure to send a copy of the Motion and Request for Hearing to the other party as soon as you file them.

    Any time the judge hears anything about the case from one party, the other party must have notice that the judge will hear evidence, and they have the opportunity to be there to hear what is said, and there is a court reporter present to record what is said.

  4. Provide a current and reliable mailing address and telephone number to the court, hearing office and the other party. Once you appear in a case you will be notified of hearings or motions by mail only. If you move and you miss a hearing because your mail fails to reach you, you may permanently lose important rights.

    If you move after the first time you file a pleading, you should file a change of address in the court file. The court will only mail notices to the address you provide in the court file.

    If you have a protective order in place that keeps your contact information confidential, you must file a Motion for Order to Seal so that alternative arrangements can be made for notice. Ask at the Self Help Center for a Motion for Order to Seal form.

  5. Appear at all scheduled hearings. Arrive at least fifteen (15) minutes before the scheduled time. Be sure to leave enough time to park and get through security – there may be a long line.

    Make sure the administrative assistant, bailiff, or court monitor for the Judge or Hearing Officer knows that you are present.

    If you have requested the Court to do something and you do not appear, your request will be dismissed. If the other party is asking for something and you do not appear, they may get whatever they are asking for because you are not present to object.

    If you do not appear at a scheduled hearing, you may permanently lose your opportunity to be heard on the issue.

  6. Be Prepared! Bring all your documents with you whenever you have a hearing. You must provide the other side with copies of everything you want to show the judge – before you get into court. If you have documents you want to show the judge, bring copies for the other side.
  7. If you, or any witnesses you may need to testify, need an interpreter to help understand the hearing, you should inform the administrative assistant for the judge or hearing officer assigned to your case at least twenty-four hours before the hearing. An interpreter will be provided at no cost for anyone who needs help understanding English.

    If you have any other special needs that require assistance during your hearing, please inform the judge's administrative assistant as soon as possible after receiving notice of hearing. Every effort will be made to ensure that your access to all services of the court will not be limited.

  8. All the pleadings, motions, notices, and orders that are filed in your case are kept in an official court file in the Court Clerk’s Office. 

    Files are open to the public unless they have been sealed through a special process. In general, anyone can look at any documents in any file just by asking for the file. For this reason, you should be VERY careful about the information you include in any pleading you file. Do not put your Social Security number or complete account numbers in pleadings – someone could use that information to steal your identity.

    You need to know what’s in your court file at all times. You can see what is in your case file by coming to the courthouse and asking at the Clerk’s Office to review the court file. You can get copies of documents in the file for a charge of 35 cents a page. You MAY NOT remove anything from the court file. The only way to add anything to the court file is to file it with the Court Clerk’s Office. 

    The Court Clerks can give you information from the Court file including your case number, who the assigned judge is, and what pleadings have been filed by telephone. The Clerk’s telephone number is 505-455-8268. 

    You can also see a list of the documents in your court file by using the “Case Lookup” feature on this website. Case Lookup doesn’t show you the actual document, it is just a list of the documents in the file.

  9. Some documents must be notarized. Notaries are available in the Self Help Center and in the Court Clerk’s Office. 

    You must have a photo ID and you must sign in front of the notary. If you have a document that must be notarized, DO NOT sign it until you are physically in front of the notary. Please do not ask notaries to sign for someone who is not present. The notary’s signature means that they saw the person sign the document, and the person signing provided proof of their identity.

    Remember that having your signature notarized means you swear that you are the person whose signature appears on the document, and that to the best of your knowledge the contents of the paper you've signed are true, under penalty of perjury.

The information on this website is not intended as legal advice, and does not substitute for seeking independent legal advice regarding the handling of a lawsuit or related legal matters.

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