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Third Judicial District Court

Tribunal del Tercer Distrito Judicial

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The Court has one very large case, the Lower Rio Grande Water Rights Adjudication, with over 18,000 defendants.

The staff at the Office of State Engineer (OSE) serves as Plaintiff in this case. The OSE is responsible for making an inventory of all water users in the prescribed area, describing and mapping each water use and water user identified. The OSE first attempts resolution of each claim based upon its research and, if necessary, negotiates changes to the initial description with the claimant. OSE attempts a resolution of each claim.  If an agreement in a claim is not reached, the OSE will file a Request for Mediation with the Court, who then becomes involved.

Most of the claimants in the water case are self-represented. The Court refers any cases involving self-represented claimants to the Joe M. Stell Ombudsman Program of the Utton Center at the UNM School of Law. The mission of the Ombudsman Program is to provide resources to and education of claimants. The Ombudsman Center contacts the claimant in an effort to assist them in resolving their case. The Ombudsman Center does not provide legal advice.

If the case is not resolved, the case is then referred back to the Court and the Court assigns the case to a water mediator. The claimant pays $150.00 directly to the mediator, and the Administrative Office of the Courts pays the mediator $350.00.