‘It’s not about me’ – Retiring Truckee Judge credits town for court’s success
October 22, 2010
TRUCKEE, Calif. – When lawyer and “die-hard skier” C. Anders Holmer came to Nevada County for a job in 1974, he fell in love with Truckee, and he stayed.Since then, the Bay Area native has moved from deputy district attorney to municipal court judge, living through the transition of the court becoming a superior court, and he helped shape the development of a full-service court in Truckee.Which was as much fun as coaching his son’s football and baseball teams – something Holmer will be able to spend more time on soon.The man most people in town know as “Andy” and father of two teenagers will retire from the bench Nov. 5. But he is satisfied with leaving a court facility that sees high-profile criminal cases, handles family law and supervises the full range of the eastern county’s civil, misdemeanor, juvenile, family, drug and mental health cases.”It’s really not about me,” Holmer said Tuesday. “I’m a lucky guy with great support.”Truckee “has always been just this remarkable place where we’ve been able to get a tremendous amount done,” he added. “I take a lot of pride in the community.”That support includes area residents who are willing to serve as jurors, his fellow judges, lawyers and people in county law enforcement who helped build up the services in Truckee between 1991 and 1995 to what is seen today.
After earning a law degree from UC Davis in 1972, Holmer worked in the District Attorney’s Office of Santa Clara County.While there, a co-worker – Karen Gunderson – was appointed to the justice court in Nevada City. She told Holmer a position could be opening up in the Nevada County District Attorney’s office.As a boy, his family had spent time in the summers near Sierra City as early as the mid-1950s, so he knew the area, and he applied for the job.At the time, the DA’s office consisted of the district attorney and one other lawyer – John Darlington. Holmer, the new No. 3, took on a wide range of cases and routinely commuted between Truckee and Nevada City.He soon dug into how trials worked, and thought about becoming a DA himself.That opportunity came when then-District Attorney Ron McMillan said he would not stand for re-election. Six people ran to replace him, including Holmer and Darlington. The two emerged from the primary and squared off in the general election – where Darlington beat his colleague.The next year, Holmer left the office and began a private practice with partner Tom Archer, handling mostly civil law from offices in Truckee and Tahoe City.During his career, Holmer also was a founding member of the Tahoe Truckee Bar Association, recognizing the Tahoe basin communities, in some ways, have more in common with each other than with their respective county seats.
Holmer was appointed by Gov. George Deukmejian as a municipal court judge in December 1990, replacing Judge George Pifer, who retired that November.He and others in the community “found ourselves saying we really need to service our community and have a full court up here,” he recalled. At the time, the municipal court’s services were limited to traffic tickets, misdemeanors and small claims; everything else had to go to the county seat close to an hour away.But the need was great. Court workers “discovered” the existence of domestic violence when Truckee residents no longer had to travel to Nevada City to file a petition for a restraining order, Holmer recalled.At the time, the state was looking for ways to make county courts more efficient and save money. The effort to create a full-service court in Truckee – eliminating costly staff travel while expanding services – qualified for the state program, Holmer said.”We were able to very successfully create kind of a model branch court, where we have taken pretty much every kind of case you would get in the judicial system and handle it up here.” he said.
Now, Truckee has an estimated 17,000 residents, expanding to as many as 40,000 on weekends and holidays.Interstate 80 brings a wide range of crime into the town, including murders, robberies and drugs. Development of ultra-high-end vacation homes brings people wrangling over multi-million-dollar residences.”I get to see defendants and lawyers from everywhere,” Holmer said. “It makes for good clean fun as a judge. Give me your problem, I’d love to see what I could do to fairly solve it.”Holmer called the mix of cases “fabulous,” adding, “diversity is what keeps you agile. It’s been a blessing.”But it is also challenging.”That challenge keeps you fresh, it keeps you humble,” Holmer said. “You have to do the best you can to understand things and not be afraid to do research.”
Holmer is leaving, “not for burn-out,” but because of a constellation of events that make it time.With nearly 20 years on the bench and at age 63 (he turns 64 next week), Holmer can retire with full benefits. He hopes to continue working as a substitute judge in the state system, working half-time, he said.With a new governor expected to take office in January, an appointment after the election could be months away – an unappealing scenario, according to court CEO Sean Metroka. Holmer expects to continue working as a substitute judge in Truckee until Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appoints a replacement.A part-time schedule would allow more time for another passion: Teaching ethics to other judges.Holmer has taught ethics at the B.E. Witkin Judicial College of California, operated by the state judiciary to train new judges in two-week sessions and to provide continuing education year-round for all judges. Holmer is on a planning committee for the college.Work for the college is “not paid, but this is something I truly enjoy,” he added.He also will have more time for family – Laurel, his wife of 21 years, and their children, Erik, 15, and Aly, 16. That includes coaching his son’s junior varsity football team; last year, Holmer coached Babe Ruth League baseball.