Commissioner LaChance Runs For Sierra County Judge Seat

November 16, 2023

IMG_9488.jpgSIERRA COUNTY — For nearly seven years, Jason LaChance (pronounced “La-Shaunce”) has been commuting from his residence in Truckee to the Sierra and Nevada County Superior Courts to preside over cases as the appointed Court Commissioner. Putting the miles on his Toyota Tacoma, a sense of calm envelopes him like a warm blanket when crossing into Sierra County. In this same calm spirit, he dons the black robe, leaves his chambers, and takes his place on the bench, fulfilling his role as a judicial officer. If LaChance could snap his fingers and instantly relocate himself, his wife of 23 years, and their incredible daughters to take up residence in Sierraville – he would. One day. One day. He finds Sierra County is the place where he can “breathe.” Folks in these mountains and the valley absolutely understand his yearning to “breathe” in our parts. It only takes one drive to Grass Valley or Reno, and most of us cannot wait to return to our little paradise.

With LaChance growing up hunting and fishing in a small town in upper Wisconsin, he is right at home in the Lost Sierras. Our lakes basin provides adventure for the LaChance family, avid campers, and hikers, and their time is often spent at our lakes in the summer. A passionate trail runner and mountain biker, LaChance loves exploring the trails that Downieville and other parts of Sierra County offer. Indeed, it is beautiful that someone who loves small-town communities and the great outdoors — specifically OUR small-town communities and OUR great outdoors — is running for the Sierra County Superior Court open judge seat in the March 5, 2024 election.

Preventing confusion (as this small town spreads news like wildfire), Jason LaChance isn’t running against Judge Charles Ervin. He is running for the open seat made available in early 2022 when Judge Yvette Durant left the open seat that Judge Jayne York Punneo sometimes occupies (sort of like when you have a substitute teacher in school). It is essential to state this: if LaChance wins, he will work WITH Ervin, and a new commissioner will be appointed.IMG_9469.jpg

Downievillians and all Sierra Countians who respected the opinion of Judge Pangman (since retired) will be pleased to note that Pangman has endorsed LaChance in this upcoming judicial election. Not only Pangman but at the time of this writing, ALL of the current Nevada County Superior Court bench and ALL of the Plumas County Superior Court bench endorse Jason LaChance in the upcoming election. What about Judge Ervin? Has Ervin endorsed LaChance? Great question! After asking the Commissioner about this, it made sense when he explained that even asking for Ervin’s endorsement wouldn’t be appropriate or ethical. We get it.

Gold miners rejoice! We have a gem of a candidate for judge right at our fingertips! Here is a man already invested in our county, knows our people, is not afraid to drive our roads during a snowstorm, and is backed by many judicial officers. Why are so many judges in neighboring counties endorsing LaChance? Why should you?

Before being appointed as the Sierra and Nevada County Court Commissioner, LaChance was a partner with long-time Truckee attorney Brent Collinson. Residing and practicing law in Truckee for over twenty years, he would often visit our courthouse to represent clients in many areas, including family law, probate, and landlord/tenant matters, as an attorney in front of our Sierra County judges. Since becoming a court commissioner nearly seven years ago, he now oversees civil matters of family law, traffic infractions, our regional department of child support, and other matters assigned by the presiding judge.

As a court commissioner, he shares “the same jurisdiction and exercises the same powers and duties as judges of the court,” according to state law. LaChance often presides over cases when our local judges must recuse themselves. The Child Support Commissioner position was created in the ’90s through Assembly Bill 1058 in order to create an expedited and efficient way to establish and enforce child support orders. The role expanded from there depending on each court’s needs.

New to campaigning, LaChance desires to run a “clean election” for a judge seat. The judge seat is a nonpartisan position, without room for politics or ideologies outside the beliefs and wisdom of the Eight Pillars of a Judicial Officer and other judicial canons guiding the way.

Working and volunteering for his father’s law practice in his youth pushed him towards law school and becoming an attorney. The disheartening courtroom scenes LaChance witnessed as an attorney propelled him to accept an appointment as a court commissioner and now to desire to be a judge. He wanted to set a few wrongs right, stating: “As an attorney, I saw certain judicial officers in surrounding counties cutting someone off who couldn’t afford an attorney, and that hit me hard.”

Therefore, when LaChance serves on the bench – which he pointed out “is not in ‘my’ courtroom, but the taxpayer’s – the people’s; I ‘control,’ not ‘own’ the court” – he is adamant that despite the challenge of being efficient with the court’s time in dealing with overbooked calendars, “both sides will be equally heard.” LaChance takes it seriously that his job as a commissioner is to be impartial, unbiased, and balanced, which will continue if elected to a judgeship. He has seen judges removed because they were too “embroiled” in their cases, blurring the lines of their role by being an advocate or acting as a prosecutor when they should have remained neutral. Viewing each case as unique, LaChance guards himself from making assumptions about the cases before him, stating someone is “not guilty until proven guilty.”

The term “public servant” is tossed around often, but it means something to the Commissioner. The cherished words of Albert Einstein are pinned up in his Nevada City Chamber (office), “The high destiny of the individual is to serve rather than rule.” and carried with him into the courtroom. Along with Einstein’s sentiments, his favorite judicial pillar dictates his actions in having “the courage to do the right in any given case” daily.

Why are all those judges endorsing LaChance? Humility. Service to all. Commitment.

Regarding commitment, rest assured that LaChance is here for the long haul. He won’t leave us for a higher court seat and is not interested in being an appellate judge. He’s committed here, on the “ground floor,” and the great thing is that he’s already invested in our county.

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