What's wrong with this picture?
This is the hearing room for photo red light and photo radar school zone speeding notices.
From left, are Assistant City Clerk Lacresia Armijo-Rivera, City Administrative Hearing Officer Albert V. Chavez, Albuquerque Police Officer Joyce Montoya-Roach and Assistant City Attorney Dennica Padilla.
So what’s wrong with the picture?
I recently went to a city administrative hearing to speak on behalf of a friend who received a photo red light “notice.”
My reputation representing my fellow officers, city employees, friends and citizen’s interests, at city hearings when I was a union leader, seems to have preceded me.
When my friend‘s case was called we approached and Chavez challenged me by asking if I was an attorney. I answered no.
The hearing officer said he would not let me speak because that would be practicing law without a license. I pointed out that this was not a legal forum or a court and that Chavez’ own notice of hearing letter to my friend indicated, ”You or a representative of your choosing should be prepared at that time to present your case.”
He was undeterred. My lawyer friend Paul Livingston, who had agreed to back me up, just in case Chavez exercised a section of the ordinance allowing him to remove anyone from the hearing room, stepped forward.
Livingston argued forcefully to allow me to present the case that I had prepared. He said Chavez was wrong about non-lawyers not being permitted to represent people before city administrative hearing officers.
Chavez, on his own motion, wanted to continue the case and postponed it to a later date.
Now it might sound reasonable that Chavez finds that I would be practicing law without a license, except for several things: I would not be. I have represented the interests of all city employees before similar city administrative hearing officers. Specifically, I have represented over a hundred individuals before: the city’s labor-management relations board; the Personnel Board; the police oversight commission; the ethics board; city council committees and the full council.
But there is another point closer to the table. APD Officer Montoya-Roach is not a lawyer but she is representing the city of Albuquerque as more than just a witness, more than an advocate. She pretty much ran the show in the cases prior to ours. She argued with respondents, lecturing them on the law, physics, their attitude and advised them of the hearing and payment process. She went so far as to call Chavez, “Your Honor,” an ingratiating term that he, unlike a judge, is neither entitled to, or is constitutionally allowed.
Also, another curiosity was the presence of Assistant City Attorney Padilla, who stated her reason for being present was to observe because she was going to make recommendations for changing the ordinance. She did not enter her appearance in the matter.
Only two people, by protocol, should be allowed to sit on the far side of the table; the hearing officer and the clerk; though the clerk should sit in a more subservient position, like… at the end of the table.
To allow the police officer and the “non-participating” assistant city attorney to also sit on the far side has them crossing the line. They move from being advocates at the bar, equal to the respondent, in what should, at least appear to be, a neutral proceeding. They display what is really going on; a kangaroo court.
Come in, make some noise, look at the video and pay your $100 within 20-days. Thank you very much, now go-away. Justice served… not in this room!
Stand by. There will be plenty more on this topic.