No longer on the bench, but still mak­ing a dif­fer­ence

Lodi News-Sentinel - - OPINION - Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.

amaz­ing.

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.

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