While some attorneys aspire their whole careers to emerge as judges, Janet Guard didn’t get the urge until extra than a long time into her legal profession. Though her activity as an attorney with the California Attorney General’s Office allowed her to make significant policy choices and handle appeals of most important instances, “I turned into eliminated professionally from the ordinary lives of person people,” Guard, who retires this month, informed The Davis Enterprise again in 2008. That was shortly after her appointment to the Yolo Superior Court bench, in which her first challenge blanketed drug court docket — now referred to as dependency intervention courtroom — an in-depth, long-term application that emphasizes substance abuse remedy over punishment and incarceration. Later, Gaard would preside over the county’s mental health court, some other distinctiveness program that seeks to rehabilitate offenders whose mental contamination is a riding issue at the back of their criminal behavior. Many additionally struggle with drug or alcohol addictions and homelessness.
They’re known as “collaborative courts,” where numerous businesses paintings collectively in the direction of a not special intention in a shift faraway from the historically adverse court docket ecosystem. Guard has presided over dozens of graduations from both courts over time, regularly turning into emotional as she displays at the graduates’ trips to health and achievement. “That’s the first-rate factor about this activity — you get to see the human beings, and you get to speak to them,” Guard stated in the latest interview. “I simply without a doubt cherished that.” Guard retires, having served simply over a decade on the Yolo bench, throughout which she additionally dealt with criminal, civil, juvenile, and own family-regulation calendars. She also served because the court’s presiding choose from 2017-18, and the assistant presiding choose the two preceding years.
She appeared back on her judicial career, but Guard spoke little approximately herself, who prefer instead to credit score people who shared her courtrooms overtime — inclusive of the attorneys, probation officials, social workers, and treatment providers who made up the forte courts. And of the path the clients themselves. So many of them she was given to know on a personal degree, with the addiction intervention and intellectual health courts requiring long-term commitments and common courtroom appearances to music the individuals’ progress. “You get to set up a courting,” said Guard, who reveals it profitable when she sees former clients dwelling productive lives.
Rewarding work One day, at the same time as strolling in downtown Davis, Guard encountered an intellectual fitness court graduate who was driving his motorcycle on the sidewalk and stopped to say good day. She recalled that she desirable-naturedly ribbed him for not staying inside the motorbike lane but stated, “if the worst he’s doing is riding his bike at the sidewalk, I’m simply thrilled.” Graduates of the collaborative courts have long past directly to secure employment, strong housing, sobriety, and beneficial relationships with their households and others in their community. Some even go back to court to provide words of encouragement to others, making their manner thru the programs. “When you may discover a project where you could sincerely assist people in changing their lives, it’s very profitable, however on the same time, it could be very tough if it doesn’t work,” stated Guard, who has had to terminate customers who again and again spoil the packages’ guidelines. On the upside, Guard sees efforts like mental health court lowering the public stigma connected to mental illness. She hopes greater humans will percentage their tales about their struggles due to it. “There’s loads more mental contamination than human beings understand, and it doesn’t constantly look the way you watched it will,” Guard stated. “Anyone person may want to have a member of the family coping with this. It’s now not just ‘different people.’”
Guard has seen mental health court docket grow substantially through the years, starting with five individuals in 2013 and expanding to its present-day 15. Likewise, the addiction intervention courtroom has advanced as nicely. Once a “last risk” recourse for prison-certain felons, the program is now voluntary, “the goal to interact folks that say, ‘I want the help,’ ” Guard stated. Presiding over juvenile delinquency court docket as her final challenge, Guard stated she advanced notable admiration for the prosecutors and youths’ legal professionals, as well as the probation officers, intellectual-fitness professionals, court docket-appointed unique advocates (CASAs), and struggle decision panels that labored to remedy the cases effectively. She also called contributors of the Yolo County bar “extra special.” “They helped me research my task in methods that I by no means predicted they could,” she stated. In addition, the courthouse staff “care about doing an amazing job. They are the general public servants.” Guard stated she was also appreciative of her fellow judges, whom she found supportive of her as she discovered the ropes and tackled difficult assignments.
“It may be a setting apart activity, so it’s high-quality to have people who you like and admire as your colleagues,” she stated. Gaard’s retirement plan, for now, could be to “no longer to decide to something too quickly.” Her dreams consist of spending greater time with the circle of relatives and returning to her onetime role as a four-H chief, with occasional stints as a journeying judge. She additionally hopes to hold a position in the intellectual-health network. She currently acquired a ship-off from the Yolo County bankruptcy of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. On Feb. 21 provided Gaard with the NAMI Yolo Outstanding Mental Health Community Service Award at its fortieth annual Pat Williams Mental Health Dinner. But as a person who shies away from the spotlight, Gaard insists it isn’t she alone who deserves the honor. “It’s one for the crew,” she stated.