Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Jahr Says He Looks Forward to ‘Healthy Self-Assessment’ of AOC
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The newly named director of the Administrative Office of the Courts said yesterday he is looking forward to participating in a “healthy self-assessment” of the agency.
Retired Shasta Superior Court Judge Stephen Jahr, who was named at a closed-door meeting of the Judicial Council Friday and will assume the post Oct. 8, said that he expects to offer suggestions regarding implementation of the Strategic Evaluation Committee report. While he anticipates that “a pretty significant restructuring” of the agency will result, he said, it is ultimately for the chief justice and the Judicial Council to determine the direction of the branch.
Jahr spoke on a conference call with reporters set up by the AOC.
In introductory remarks, he said he was to “bring my trial court judging experience to some very challenging times,” referring to both the state financial crisis and the long-simmering issues laid bare by the SEC report, which called for major changes in how the AOC does business.
Change of Plans
Jahr—who retired in 2009 after 22 years as a justice court, municipal court, and superior court judge, and has since continued to assist both his local court and the Judicial Council as a volunteer—said that returning to work was “not in our long term plans.” But when some of the judges and others he had worked with on branch issues asked him “to give it some very very serious consideration,” he thought about it and “offered my name to the search committee.”
The 63-year-old ex-jurist grew up in Southern California and practiced in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara before moving to Redding in the early 1980s. That combination will be helpful in his new post, he predicted.
“My perspective is one that embraces the experiences of judges in large and small and medium size jurisdictions and the administrators in those jurisdictions,” he said.
His impression, he said, is that “the council has an open minded attitude about the self-assessment process.” Nothing that came up in the interview process suggested that the council is going to place “any restrictions or limitations” on his ability to offer input into the restructuring.
Jahr’s selection was greeted Friday with a statement by the Alliance of California Judges, which said it had “concerns” regarding his opposition to AB 1208, the branch decentralization bill that the alliance championed, but which never made it to the floor of the Assembly.
The alliance amplified those concerns yesterday, distributing copies of letters Jahr wrote that were critical of the alliance position and accused its members of unfairly maligning the chief justice. The alliance said Jahr had spoken out without knowing all the facts, and expressed hope that he “has now carefully read the SEC report as well as the report on CCMS which was done by the respected State Auditor.”
The alliance added:
“Any objective reader of these two reports would necessarily conclude that the ‘assertions’ and ‘allegations’ made by ‘these judges’ have been verified and confirmed.”
Jahr said he had indeed read the SEC report, and said he opposed AB 1208 “as a private citizen.” Having chaired the Trial Court Budget Commission during the transition from county to state funding, he said, he realizes the importance of “building and maintaining trust” between the AOC and the judges, and respecting the “very significant differences of opinion” that exist.
“I’d like to think that those who worked with me [on budget issues] will tell you that I offered an open forum” for the expression of all views. And as director, he said, he will not publicly state his own views but will “take my guidance from the chief and from the council.”
He noted there is no fixed term for the position, and said he does not see himself as a short-term or transitional director. He will serve “at the pleasure of the chief and the council,” and has given them “an open-ended commitment,” he said.
Jahr, a skiing, hiking and backpacking enthusiast, added that while “Redding is home” and he and his wife love their life there, he has “no intention of being a part-time director” and expects to acquire a second residence near the AOC’s San Francisco headquarters.
He took the position, he said, because “I love the branch.”
He said he “gave it everything I had for 22 years” and now has “an opportunity to further that under the direction of the chief justice, who in my judgment has really stood out in these tough times.“
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company