6 vie for Nevada County judge seat
Sun News Service
Six people, all lawyers from the western part of the county, are vying for a seat on the Nevada County Superior Court in Tuesday’s primary election.
The seat will become vacant at the end of the year when Judge Carl F. Bryan II retires after 23 years on the bench.
The newly elected member will join two new judges and a new judicial commissioner appointed to the bench in the past eight months. With a total of six judges and one commissioner for the entire court, the newcomers will make a long-term impact on the court’s character.
The six judges are coordinated by a presiding judge, currently Judge C. Anders Holmer, who sits in Truckee. The position rotates among the judges every two years.
Unlike urban counties where judges specialize in specific areas, judicial assignments here also rotate. Major areas in the courthouse include misdemeanor and felony criminal cases, traffic, family, juvenile criminal, and civil law.
“I’ve been in the courthouse every day working with judges, probation, the District Attorney, mental health and other agencies,” Anderson said. He would work to make the court more efficient and effective.
He helped create alternative courts to deal with teens facing drug charges, children being removed from families, and offenders with mental health issues.
“When we can solve the problem and stop people from cycling through the criminal system, everybody wins.”
The biggest problems facing Nevada County’s judicial system are methamphetamine addiction and domestic violence. On meth, he said, “I believe in prison time for the hard-care cases and alternative sentencing for the candidates” who show a capacity for rehabilitation.
On domestic violence: “There’s no prosecution, no convictions, no penalties” for violating restraining orders. Colantuono said he would raise awareness of the need in that area. He would discourage mediation in unbalanced relationships.
Mediation is an important tool in civil law, Jensen said, and he would promote that over nonbinding arbitration. He has found that boundary disputes are an especially common problem in the county.
Jensen grew up hearing horror stories about drug addiction from his father, a narcotics officer. “Diversion (into rehabilitation) works for occasional users,” Jensen said. “The person who gets five or six chances, I don’t get that. The ones that are druggies, they don’t want to vote for me.”
He would strive for more collaboration among law-related agencies.
Domestic violence cases could be handled better with a specialized court in which one judge follows all the cases coordinates follow-up, he said.
Criminals don’t see their victims as human beings, he said. “If we could force the criminal to sit in a room with his victims,” healing for both could occur and crime could be reduced, he said.
His lifetime in the area is a plus, he said. “The more background you have (in who interrelates with who), the more likely you’re not going to be snookered.”
He said offenders “are getting off with basically no punishment, on occasion. I’m not talking about throwing everybody in the stocks. I’m talking about fair, equitable punishment.”
He would like to see Prop. 36 drug offenders get more rehabilitation time. “Short-term recovery doesn’t work. I can lobby to say, ‘This has to change.'”
“The nightmare of meth became clear to me” in working with children in the courts because of neglect and abuse, Smith said.
Drug offenders suffer from too-short recovery programs and need “a real program that’s designed to give them rehabilitation.”
Judges need to discern among offenders who can and want to recover. “For those parents (who go through the motions of a program), I really have no patience,” Smith said.