Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Courts Director Jahr to Step Down After Two Years
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
Administrative Director of the Courts Steven Jahr said yesterday he will step down at the end of September.
Jahr, who turns 66 on Sept. 16, said in a statement that he had been planning to retire since last fall, and had told Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye that he would stay until “sometime after the state budget was signed by the governor.” Jahr has held the post since Oct. 8, 2012.
The move comes days after the announcement that the Administrative Office of the Courts will be rebranded as the Judicial Council staff.
The name change announced Friday was seen by some judges as a harbinger of Jahr’s departure. At the Judicial Council meeting announcing the name change, Jahr was unusually freewheeling in his expression, saying, “Retiring the name AOC will produce a perceptual change, or perhaps a cultural change. Yet under the substantive law, it makes no change at all. The name is superfluous.”
The agency’s statement said Jahr had been brought out of retirement as a trial judge to lead the administrative office “during a time of transition.” His predecessor, William Vickrey, left the AOC in September 2011 amid mounting controversy over the agency’s spending practices and a $500 million court technology project that judges and state legislators deemed a failure.
Administrator Director of the Courts
Jahr’s retirement was rumored for many months, and names for his replacement ran the gamut from retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Terry Friedman, to former Democratic State Sen. Joe Dunn, now executive director of the State Bar of California.
Friedman was a Judicial Council insider and champion for the $500 million computer project called the Court Case Management System. Dunn was seen as a conciliatory choice, who could help repair the agency’s reputation with the Legislature.
Dunn also helped broker a deal in 2011 to help fund the CCMS project through a private donor, but the deal fell through.
Neither Friedman nor Dunn returned a MetNews phone call yesterday afternoon.
The Alliance of California Judges said in a release that it hoped the selection of a new director would lead to internal reform, an opportunity it said was passed up when Jahr was chosen.
‘Degradation of Confidence’
“Once again, the Chief Justice and Council will have a chance to either improve matters, or ensure further degradation of confidence, more budget difficulties and greater strife,” the alliance said. “This time, there can be no mistakes.”
The statement continued:
“An experienced administrator with an understanding of his or her proper role, and an appreciation for the independence of the trial courts, should be chosen. Choosing yet another insider with a dogged devotion to the status quo will prove disastrous. Everyone is watching us. We need new ideas, new blood, and a realization that democratization of the Council selection process is the only real road to honest reform. Resignations and name changes fall short.”
It took the Judicial Council’s search committee a year to select Jahr as Vickrey’s replacement after a nationwide search, but yesterday’s statement said the agency expects to have a new director in place by the time Jahr leaves.
Jahr is a former Los Angeles attorney who served as presiding judge of the Shasta County Municipal Court for several months prior to being elevated to the Shasta Superior Court in 199. He was the presiding judge of that court from 1993 through 1995, then served as judge of the coordinated municipal and superior courts of that county in 1996.
On a statewide level, in addition to years of faculty service for the state’s judicial education programs, Jahr served as a board member and vice president of the California Judges Association. He was a member of the Judicial Council from 1998 to 2001.
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