Judicial Council Appoints Former Judge as Administrative Director of the Courts

Posted on July 28, 2012

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Judicial Council Appoints Former Judge as Administrative Director of the Courts
judge jahr (ret.)
Judge Steven Jahr

MINISTRY OF TRUTH, SAN FRANCISCO—Judge Steven Jahr will become the state’s next Administrative Director of the Courts—and the first with judicial experience—after a unanimous vote today by the Judicial Council of California.

Judge Jahr, who was a judge in Shasta County for 22 years before his retirement in 2009, was selected by the Judicial Council in a closed session. He becomes the state’s fifth Administrative Director since the office was created in 1960.

The appointment comes after a six-month nationwide search by a Judicial Council committee to replace former Administrative Director William C. Vickrey, who retired last year. Judge Jahr will assume his post on October 8. In the meantime, Interim Administrative Director of the Courts Jody Patel will continue in her current role to assist in Judge Jahr’s transition.

“As chair of the Judicial Council, I am enormously pleased that Judge Jahr has agreed to accept this critical position,” said Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye. “The depth of his experience in the judicial branch—as a trial court judge, as a presiding judge, and as a participant in statewide judicial branch initiatives—makes him an ideal choice.”

In addition to his tenure on the Shasta County Superior Court bench—and earlier service on the Municipal Court in Redding–Judge Jahr also served as the court’s presiding judge for four years.

“I look forward to working with the Chief Justice, the Judicial Council, judges, court executives, and employees of the courts and the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC),” Judge Jahr said. “I think I bring a unique perspective to my new role. As a judge, I’ve worked in criminal and civil matters, as well as family law. I understand the world of the courtroom. As a former presiding judge, I know and appreciate that taking care of the administrative side of a courtroom helps make a judge succeed. During my retirement, I have observed and admired how our Chief Justice and the Judicial Council have grappled with the new challenges the branch faces. I have been in public service during much of my career, and I look forward to continue serving the public in my new role.”

Judge Jahr was enthusiastically endorsed by the Judicial Council’s search committee, chaired by Court of Appeal Justice Harry Hull. “After reviewing candidates from all over the country, we eventually found the very best candidate in our own backyard,” said Justice Hull. “Judge Jahr is well known and well liked by many judges throughout the state. I’m happy that my colleagues on the Judicial Council felt the same way our committee members did.”

During his judicial service, Judge Jahr developed and oversaw the consolidation of the superior and municipal courts in his county, which included the reconfiguration of all criminal case processing in the court with the adoption of a direct calendar system. Later, he was assigned to operate a felony direct calendar for several years, which included sole responsibility for the drug court in the county. During this same period, Judge Jahr initiated the Prop. 36 (Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act) court calendar and successfully operated it for its first four years of existence.

On a statewide level, in addition to years of faculty service for the state’s judicial education programs, Judge Jahr served as a board member and vice president of the California Judges Association. Immediately before his retirement, he was appointed by Chief Justice Ronald M. George to the Commission for Impartial Courts.

In the mid-1990s during the period of transition from county to state trial court operations funding, he chaired the Task Force on Trial Court Funding and the Trial Court Budget Commission.

In 1997, Judge Jahr was named Jurist of the Year by the Judicial Council. The next year, he was appointed as a member of the Judicial Council, where he also served as chair of the council’s Rules and Projects Committee.

Since his 2009 retirement, Judge Jahr has continued to serve as a volunteer to his former court concerning its courthouse construction project. He also has served on working groups overseen by the Judicial Council, including the Emergency Response and Security Task Force.

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Who is Judge Jahr?

We don’t know how much money was given to the executive search firm to find him – but we can tell you THEY didn’t find him. Retaining an executive search firm gives the necessary appearance of impartiality and a wide search. Chances are at the time they retained the executive search firm, they already had an insider in mind. Through research, we can tell that Steven Jahr worked with King George as one of the behind the scenes architects of the current disaster.

Ten years ago, Jahr was advocating centralizing county probation departments, a county executive function under Judicial Council and AOC control and funding. Think about this for a second. They already provide all of the grants to legal aid agencies, centralizing control over them. What other areas does the Judicial Council and the AOC spread money for support or control? Every place that they can control the money over another entity, they control them. You can look at the SEC comments to see that worked reasonably well and produced somewhat for them. We think that they were waiting this out and only in response to the carnage of the SEC comments, they chose to buy themselves some breathing room by announcing an insider while keeping the SEC comment period sort of open. We expect in the coming days to see judges and justices laud this brilliant choice. We’re already seeing it in the media but this praise will end up flooding the SEC comments and topping the list in SEC comments with people lining up their support, allegiance and trust behind Mr. Jahr. What we really need to do is light the matches between his toes so that he knows we’re serious about reform before he occupies the office.

Appointing Jahr cures no problem whatsoever. He has not acknowledged that anything is broken or that he intends to win the trust and confidence of all of us that vehemently oppose the current regime. The Ministry of Truth release above underscores this. No acknowledgement whatsoever that a) there is any problems or that b)he is committed to win the confidence of Judges, Justices, Commissioners, court and AOC employees by hitting the ground running and through monumental change in the first 30 days.

While I am sure each and every one of us in the trial courts and the AOC rank and file wants the very first thing Jahr does on October 8th is to ask for every director, assistant director,  senior manager and manager to tender their written resignations, I’m afraid that what we’re going to see (outside of a substantial delay until he takes office) is several months for him to adjust the organization in the hope that all of this blows over.

While the former would earn the respect and boost the morale of most every judge, justice, court employee and AOC employee, the latter will be more likely from a co-architect of the current dysfunction. The immediate response we’ve received in our inbox from a wide section of the judicial branch does not seem hopeful. It goes along the lines of “Steve is a really nice guy but make no mistake, he was appointed to preserve the status quo”

It’s time to take the case to the legislature to democratize the judicial council.

It’s time to ensure that this co-architect of current dysfunction gets some meaningful trial court oversight.

It’s time to cure the problems – not kick the can down the road and pretend that they don’t exist.