The expression “to make a federal case out of something” can suggest that more important cases land in federal court. In fact, our Constitution and laws of Congress determine just what makes a case subject to federal court jurisdiction. Karen Molzen, magistrate judge, guides us through the federal court system and how it operates towards a better understanding of our third branch of government: the judicial.


In 1999, Karen Molzen was appointed as the first full-time female United States magistrate judge in the District of New Mexico. After serving 12 years at her Las Cruces duty station, that station was changed to Albuquerque when she became the District’s chief magistrate judge. Although she officially retired in May 2019, she continues her work as a magistrate judge in a part-time capacity under the federal judiciary recall program.