Helen Davis
Special to the Sun

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December 13, 2012
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Looking back: Remembering my 28 years at Truckee court

TRUCKEE, Calif. - Raised in Southern California, I worked in downtown L.A. in aerospace before heading to the Sierra in 1981. Arriving in small-town Truckee, I volunteered at the senior center, networking with locals with hopes of landing a job.

Soon after, founder Shirley Rosamond hired me to drive the organization's van. I drove a year and a half before Judge George Pifer appointed me to a court clerk position with the Nevada County Justice Court in August 1984. I was promoted to the supervisory position in March of 1986.

Working at the court has never been boring, and the California courts have been in constant flux during my near three decades as a clerk. From Justice courts we grew to Municipal Courts and then the 1991 Trial Court Realignment Act began the process to consolidate all into Superior Courts. Processes and procedures have changed and grown to accommodate the additional case types, services and ensuing workload.

Our one-judge branch grew to one plus a part-time commissioner. I had the pleasure to work with many judges and commissioners who worked in Truckee on temporary assignments. During my 28 years, there have been three full-time Nevada County judges assigned to the Truckee Branch. Judge George Pifer retired in October of 1990, which brought Judge C. Anders Holmer to the bench through a governor's appointment in January 91 until his retirement in 2011.

Judge Robert L. Tamietti, a Truckee resident commuting to work at our Nevada City office since his appointment in 2003, took the Truckee bench January 2012. All have brought something unique to the office and I am honored to have had both the opportunities and education reaped while working closely with each one during the many changes we navigated.

Upon my arrival at the court in 1984, there were no computers. Later, I worked with our county's programmer Jon Jackson creating an in-house case management system and we purchased a program for citation processing and accounting. Those early systems are still being utilized today, although we are currently in the process of a computer conversion.

Another technological success was working with Sergeant Lee Osborne to initiate use of video conferencing for inmate arraignments. Video enables the court to arraign in-custody defendants without need to transport them up the mountain to Truckee. We currently utilize the technology almost daily for arraignments, staff meetings, court-reporting and interpreting; improving safety, cost and time.

We outgrew the small digs we shared with the sheriff's (Nevada County) department. The county took the medical building on Levon by eminent domain around 1990, built a new east wing and named the facility the Joseph Government Center. We moved into the new wing's lower level in 1993. A number of years later, we remodeled a large section of the upper level adding a second courtroom, dubbed Dept. B, with grant funds provided by legislation designed to collect child support. Previously a buyer, I enjoyed purchasing all the new furniture as well as new jury seating for Dept. A. I hope our citizens find it comfortable when attending court or serving jury duty.

Our clerical positions have fluctuated anywhere from six to 10 depending on the budget and economic condition of the time. Akin to many public and private agencies, the courts have recently found it necessary to cut hours of operation with staff taking unpaid leave. However, despite the budget woes and the high level of responsibility clerks bear, they enjoy the job immensely. We are fortunate most of the clerical staff in the Truckee Branch appointed during my tenure have stayed to retire with 10 years or more service. The last three years brought six retirements representing 99 years of experience. I have appointed approximately 25 permanent staff with 12 now retired and seven remaining

An antique lover, I have saved a number of relics including court seals, courtroom benches and every civil and criminal casebook from 1920s to date. Seeing the old case logs, Judge Tamietti asked me to look into the history of Truckee's justices. I contacted several organizations, but it was Chaun Mortier of the Truckee Donner Historical Society who took hold of the project and made it her own. We now have a fantastic photo display of many of our past and recent justices displayed in Department A.

Judge Tamietti also implemented a Peer Court in Truckee last year. A project I found incredibly fun, assisting with the creation of manuals and other instruction aids as well as teaching students the role of the clerk in the courtroom. Peer Court is a fantastic educational opportunity for our middle and high school students.

I have spent literally half of my 56 years here at the Truckee Branch of the Superior Court, most as the court operations manager. I have found the time, with all the changes experienced, successes celebrated and admitted failures, to be incredibly stimulating, satisfying and blessed.

I sincerely love my job, and enjoy working with the public and so many great people in the system, whom I will miss. I leave only because I know it is time for something new, the winds of change are here!

Our home is for sale and we hope to move to Virginia soon where my husband Prentiss' family reside. In the meantime, we have ski passes and want to enjoy this beautiful mountain like never before: in retirement!


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Dec 13, 2012 12:00PM Published Dec 13, 2012 11:45AM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.