No longer on the bench, but still making a difference
Some of you may remember Judge Ann Chargin, who served on the San Joaquin County Municipal Court bench from 1975 to 1983.
She’s still around after nearly 97 years with the energy and self-sufficiency of a number of people half her age.
A former Lodi resident who now lives in Stockton, Chargin has had an interesting life and is one who took an unusual road to achieve a distinguished law career.
In 1923, Ann Chargin was born in Springfield, Mass. It’s hard to image what she’s seen in a lifetime. Back then, only a fraction of homes had radios, and televisions did not exist — not to mention the absence of communicative devices that young people take for granted today.
A gallon of gas was 20 cents. A new Ford could be bought for as low as $260. Airplanes were in their infancy and steam locomotives dominated the rails.
Chargin lived through the Great Depression and World War II. She even witnessed 16 U.S. presidents come and go.
So how did she end up as a San Joaquin County judge?
The talented attorney had always dreamed of a law career but took the long road to get there. Believe it or not, Chargin first worked as a professional roller skate teacher in Massachusetts. But when the rink closed in 1957, she made the decision to come to Lodi and join her Italian immigrant parents.
Since the skating business was no longer lucrative,
Chargin decided to pursue secretarial courses at
Humphreys College. But a mentor at the time suggested she renew her goal of attending law school. Chargin took night classes and received her degree in 1962.
Her first job as an attorney was working for a local law firm. Then in 1968, she joined the public defender’s office in Stockton.
In 1975, Governor Jerry Brown appointed her to the municipal court bench. Two years later, she ran for election, which gave her another six years as a judge. Chargin was the first woman and public defender to serve in this San Joaquin County position.
During her time on the bench, Judge Chargin saw a variety of cases, both civil and criminal.
However, by 1983, things turned south when she lost the election. Allegedly, the police union was not happy about a former public defender being on the bench and worked hard to defeat her.
Yet the judge continued her career as an arbitrator for various civil disputes. She also had a pro tem assignment on the Fifth District Court of Appeal and served two terms on the California Judicial Council.
Today, she is still active in the community as treasurer for the
Stockton Opera Guild and as copresident of the Stockton Symphony Alliance.
I asked the judge if she remembered any hilarious excuses from people trying to get out of jury duty during voir dire proceedings. Surprisingly, she said none came to mind, and that most people wanted to perform their civic duty — unless severe financial restraints made it impossible to do so.
Finally, I asked the question everyone wants to know: “How do you stay so young at almost 97 years of age?”
With a modest and unpretentious reply, the judge simply said: “I don’t know. I guess it’s just the luck of the draw.” She also thought it might have something to do with the Mediterranean diet she and her 100year-old sister have been on for years.
The diet consists of several fruits and vegetables, whole grains, cereal and pasta. Olive oil substitutes for margarine and butter. At least two helpings of fish twice per week, which may include water-packed Tuna, salmon, trout or herring — none of which is deep fried, of course.
Red meat is reduced, while fish, poultry and beans are used for protein. Small portions are important. Low-fat Greek yogurt and small amounts of cheese are also acceptable.
So there you have it. An amazing story of someone who has, and still does contribute much to her community. Here’s hoping that Judge Chargin has many more healthy years to enjoy.