Sherry Spears will come to work Friday, have a pizza party with her staff, and then say goodbye to 35 years of service at Fresno County Superior Court, including the last 19 years as manager of jury services.
Over the years, Spears has worked in a variety of leadership roles, but is best known for shepherding about 600 people a week to different courtrooms for jury duty.
Presiding Judge Kimberly Gaab said Spears’ work will have a lasting effect on court operations.
“Sherry was instrumental in hiring and training many of our court’s current staff leaders and our rising stars,” Gaab said. “She also led efforts to improve efficiency and implement innovative ways to serve our valued jurors. While we will miss working with Sherry daily, the court and the people of Fresno County will continue to benefit from her efforts for many years to come.”
I love my job. It’s been a good place to work.
Spears, 57, was equally complementary.
“I have the greatest respect for our bench and our administration,” Spears said. “I love my job. It’s been a good place to work.”
Born in Fresno, Spears is a 1977 graduate of Hoover High School. She was going to Fresno City College, studying to be a paralegal and taking business classes when her mother, Margaret Macom, a judicial assistant for former Superior Court Judges Donald Franson and Timothy Buckley, suggested that she apply for a job with the courts.
Spears was first hired as extra help. She later passed a test and became full time, working in the court’s calendar division.
Back then, she and other staffers used manual typewriters to type out the calenders for criminal, family law, probate and civil courts. They then used a Xerox machine to copy the calenders for distribution.
In the 1990s, she was managing a staff of 80 and overseeing clerks and court reporters.
Around 1997, she became manager of jury services, overseeing a staff of about four people. The office also is in charge of the grand jury. “We may be a small staff, but they work very hard,” Spears said.
Born in Fresno, Sherry Spears is a 1977 graduate of Hoover High School.
Dealing with the public, especially jurors, can be difficult. For many potential jurors, serving is a hardship because they could be the lone provider or have children to care for, Spears said. Jury service was especially difficult when she first started working in the courts because potential jurors were ordered to be on call for two weeks. During this two-week span, they would sit in court or the jury assembly room all day, and if they weren’t picked for a trial, they were told to come back the next day.
In July 1999, the Judicial Council adopted a statewide policy called “One-Day or One-Trial Jury Service.” In general, jurors are on standby for one week. If they are summoned for jury duty, they come to court for one day and only stay if they are selected for a trial.
“Jurors have restored my faith in humanity,” Spears said. “I know some are unhappy to serve because it is a hardship or inconvenient. But by and large, they are a tremendous group of people.”
Suzanne Abi-Rached, who has served as manager of archives and court reporter divisions, will take over for Spears. To give Abi-Rached time to settle into her new position, grants manager Josette Merced Bello will be the interim media contact for a short transition period after Spears’ retirement.
In retirement, Spears said she plans to work on her house in Fresno.
“I’m going to miss them,” Spears said of her staff. “They have been like my family.”