Lack of personnel at D.A. office causes concern

Mike Linn

Local law enforcement officials say they are concerned about a perceived shortage of personnel at the Roosevelt County District Attorney’s Office. Officers say they sometimes have to act as attorneys when prosecuting crimes such as shoplifting and disorderly conduct.
In an effort to seek remedy, police officials and members of the local Crime Stoppers team have set a special meeting for Nov. 18. Officials said the meeting is to discuss ways to fight crime in the community and issues with understaffing of prosecutors.
Local law enforcement officials say they are pleased with the quality of prosecuting attorneys in Portales, but said they need more to effectively combat area crime.
“With so much work sometimes certain cases fall out of favor,” Portales Police Capt. Lonnie Berry said.
Ninth Judicial District Attorney Brett Carter agreed both the Roosevelt and Curry County district attorneys’ offices are understaffed, but said a shortage of district attorneys exists throughout the state.
Moreover, Carter said it is difficult to recruit new attorneys to rural areas such as Clovis and Portales when openings exist in bigger cities, including Santa Fe.
An increase in felony crimes doesn’t help either, Carter said.
“A lot of the district attorneys’ offices throughout the state aren’t even prosecuting misdemeanors other than domestic violence and DWIs,” Carter said. “We’re seeing a fairly large increase in the number of felonies being filed — not only are we understaffed but more crimes are being committed.”
Carter said 9th judicial district attorneys prosecute more misdemeanor cases than most districts in the state.
Assistant District Attorney Donna Mowrer, the only attorney in the Portales office, has about 450 open cases to prosecute, almost twice as many as attorneys in the DA’s office in Clovis.
“In a lot of cases we’re going to court, pulling out the file and trying to familiarize ourselves right at that point in time,” Carter said.
But Carter said Mowrer’s workload should decrease in about two weeks when Assistant District Attorney Dedee Hoxie begins work in Portales.
Ideally, Carter would like to have three additional positions in the Portales office: a victim advocate, an investigator and a receptionist.
That’s not likely to happen any time soon, however, because Carter said the office is too small for additional employees.
“Even if we received funding to hire them, we’d have nowhere to put them,” he said.