Next AOC director described as “insider” by many

Posted on July 31, 2012

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July 31, 2012

Dear Members and Others,

Yesterday we sent you some information regarding the next Administrative Director of the AOC, retired Superior Court Judge Steven Jahr. In the materials were letters sent by Judge Jahr taking issue with the Trial Court Bill of Rights and AB 1208.

Also yesterday, the incoming director held a press availability and appeared to explain his position on those matters. We attach two articles on this subject, one by reporter Cheryl Miller and the other by reporter Paul Jones.

The Alliance takes Judge Jahr at his word when he says that he believes the AOC is a “service agency” and that his role is one of a “servant.” In that regard, it would be wise for him to heed the advice of the overwhelming number of judges who have called for immediate and full implementation of the Chief Justice’s SEC recommendations.

As he is described in both articles as an “insider,” we believe that Judge Jahr is well acquainted with the machinations of the Judicial Council and the AOC and should be able to implement the SEC recommendations with all deliberate speed. Notwithstanding his superior inside knowledge, we caution you to expect calls to “give him time.”

Directors, Alliance of California Judges

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Daily Journal
7/31/2012

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Judicial Council taps insider for AOC top post
Retired judge attracts flack over his director appointment
By Paul Jones

JCW: Cen$ored by corporate greed.

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The Recorder

AOC’s New Director Describes Role as ‘Servant’ to Judicial Council

Cheryl Miller
2012-07-30 05:27:06 PM
SACRAMENTO — The Administrative Office of the Courts is “a service agency” and its director “a servant” of the Judicial Council and the chief justice, the man who will fill that position told reporters on Monday.
In his first public comments since being named administrative director of California’s courts on Friday, Steven Jahr, a retired Shasta County Superior Court judge, described his new role in deferential terms.
“Ultimately it is for the council to set the course, with the chief justice leading that process, [and] for me as the soon-to-be director of the agency to see to it that we implement it for all the customers we serve,” Jahr said.
Jahr’s remarks appeared to acknowledge the turmoil that has engulfed the judiciary in recent months over the proper role of the branch’s administrative arm. And they seemed to reflect many jurists’ loud call for changes in the Administrative Office of the Courts. Hundreds of judges have publicly endorsed a report by the Strategic Evaluation Committee that concluded the AOC has grown too large and too dominant in its dealings with trial courts.
Council members are still mulling what to do with the hundred-plus recommendations submitted by the committee. But ultimately, it will be Jahr who, as the branch’s top executive, decides how any council policy change is enacted.
In Jahr, the Judicial Council chose both an insider and a ground-breaker. He will be the first AOC director since the position was created in 1960 to have previously served as a judge.
“At a time when we are struggling with the image of who is governing the branch, the judges or administrators, Judge Jahr’s appointment goes a long way toward answering that question,” said Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Vicencia, a past president of the California Judges Association.
At age 63, Jahr insisted he didn’t take the AOC job as a short-term assignment.
“No one has suggested that they’re asking me to plug a hole … and that certainly was not my view when I put in my application,” he told reporters. “My understanding is that the council is seeking a leader for the administrative office with whom they can work well in continuity. I will serve at the pleasure of the chief and the council. And I view it as an open-ended commitment.”
Jahr’s resume is marked by judicial branch work outside of Shasta County. He chaired the Task Force on Trial Court Funding and the Trial Court Budget Commission in the mid-1990s, when funding for trial courts shifted from counties to the state. In 1998 former Chief Justice Ronald George appointed Jahr to the Judicial Council, where he headed the powerful Rules and Projects Committee. He’s also been involved in courthouse construction and security issues.
“There wasn’t much as far as California judicial branch matters that he hadn’t had a strong background in,” said Third District Court of Appeal Justice Harry Hull, who chaired the search committee that ultimately recommended Jahr to Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and the Judicial Council.
Jahr wasn’t on the list of early candidates. An executive search firm gave Hull’s committee 17 names, including those of court administrators, attorneys and retired judge advocates general from states as far away as New York, Louisiana and Georgia. The list shrank as some candidates pulled out because “California had become quite well known regarding its financial circumstances,” Hull said.
The committee ultimately interviewed three candidates, but “none had the qualifications we were looking for,” Hull said. So committee members started talking among themselves. Jahr’s name had surfaced earlier in the spring. The retired judge said colleagues asked him in recent months if he was interested in the job. He was.
“Frankly, immediately the light went on,” Hull said. “We said, ‘We can’t do better than this.”
Jahr has left a paper trail for potential critics. In March 2011, he wrote a letter, circulated within the branch, disputing the Alliance of California Judges’ claim that the Judicial Council was supposed to enact a trial court “bill of rights.” . Later that year Jahr wrote another letter critical of Assembly Bill 1208, warning that the Alliance-backed legislation would “ensure the Balkanization of the branch.”
The Alliance said in a prepared statement on Friday that its members “have concerns” about Jahr given his comments.
On Monday, Jahr said he wrote those letters as “a private citizen.”
“I take my guidance from the chief and from the council. It is their determination, not mine, concerning matters of policy,” he said. “The role of a private citizen is one thing and the role of a servant of the council and the chief is another matter.”
A resident of Redding, Jahr said he will find a second home closer to the AOC’s San Francisco headquarters. The council has not yet set a salary for Jahr, although the brochure advertising the AOC director’s job set the pay scale between $206,556 and $227,196 annually.