2011 Year in Review: Juvenile Court

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Hon. Lois Haight

I can’t believe another year has passed and it is time to write a new report about Juvenile Court.

However, amidst all the budget bad news, we do have some good news. We have five Juvenile Court Judges. We lost one judge in reorganization but the good news is the ones we gained have hit the ground running and really enjoy the assignment. I believe they have caught the fever of the rewards of working to help change or redirect lives for children and families

Judge Barry Baskin joined the Juvenile Court in Martinez and Judge Joni T. Hiramoto is in charge of the West County Juvenile Court. Judge Barbara Hinton (who spent many years in Juvenile court as a practicing attorney) is heading up our court in Juvenile Hall. Commissioner Houghton has moved out to East County Juvenile Court and I have remained in Martinez Juvenile Court.

Our new court in Pittsburg East County is really something to behold. It is high-tech, beautiful, spacious, with great access, ample parking and rooms that may be used for victim-witnesses, as well as attorney-client interview rooms. The Pittsburg staff headed by the irrepressible, outstanding Cyndi Mlack is fabulous. We feel very fortunate to have this new venue for our East County youth and their families.

It is so difficult for many in East County to get to Martinez with the dearth of public transportation and this new court has enabled much greater access for the growing population in East County.

During these difficult budget times, thankfully we have been able to keep our outstanding boys ranch, Orin Allen Youth Rehabilitation Center in Brentwood. It remains at capacity at all times. In addition, there are increased opportunities for therapy for the boys and they also benefit from the expansion and use of the excellent library facilities and new vocational programs. With the Orin Allen Youth Rehabilitation Center, we have a resource for rehabilitation for which we are very grateful.

Further, our Youthful Offender Treatment Program for boys (YOTP) and our Girls In Motion Program for girls (GIM) in separate units in Juvenile Hall have garnered a lot of attention statewide and other counties have come to view them in order to replicate them in their jurisdictions. The focus on cognitive behavior and other tools have given many youngsters a new start in life.

We have a new Chief Probation Officer, Phil Kader who is absolutely terrific! Chief Kader inspires trust and confidence in all he meets. The morale in probation, I would say, is at an all-time high and that is even in the face of these very difficult economic times when we have to do so much more with so much less. Probation deserves our unending thanks – what would we do without them?

The Chief Deputy for Juvenile County Counsel, Valerie Ranch, retired after a very successful career and is being replaced by attorney Steve Rettig who has been a respected practicing attorney in juvenile court for many years.

Sadly, one of the longest serving and most beloved attorneys in juvenile county counsel, Paul Muniz, passed away in July of this year. We will all miss him greatly.

On behalf of our Juvenile Bench, we wish to thank the attorneys who practice in our Courts for their professionalism and their excellence along with their dedication to our youth and their families.

Filed Under: Spotlight

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