ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Monday was Superior Court Judge Stephanie Joannides' last day on the bench. She retires after 16 years as a judge.
She's moved out of her chambers into a small office at the Nesbitt Courthouse, where she will continue to work a few days a week to close-out her cases.
"Papers, papers, everywhere," said Joannides, standing in the middle of a room that has boxes stacked in the corners. "There's so much paperwork when you're a judge."
One of the surprises, a box filled with toys for children who wind up coming to court with their parents.
“There are all sorts of toys in there, from a dancing chicken to a dancing dog,” said Joannides.
Joannides has earned a reputation for defining a different sort of role as a judge, one that she sees as a collaborator -- working with prosecutors, probation officers, public defenders, and the community to find solutions.
During her time, she's pushed for innovation in the judiciary, including the establishment of a drug court, where non-violent offenders can avoid jail time, if they work with a team of people assembled to help them reclaim their lives.
Since her retirement was announced, Joannides says she's received many calls and e-mails. She received an especially heart-warming email Monday morning.
The parents of a drug court participant had written to thank her, "We want you to know you can count on our son, Chris, as one of your solid success stories." The young man completed alcohol treatment nine years ago and has remained sober. The couple sent a photograph of their son with his two children.
Joannides also helped to start the "Color of Justice" program, to encourage minority students to seek careers in the law.
The program started out as a half-day class and expanded to three days, with law professors from Washington State brought up to teach the students.
Joannides called this an important step, "Just to show them what it would be like to go to law school. A lot of times it's just picturing yourself in the position. It's half the battle."
Most recently Joannides has piloted programs in family justice, to bring about early resolutions in the types of disputes that can sometimes escalate into domestic violence. Attorneys volunteer their time to help families resolve legal issues like child custody and property settlements.
Joannides says she's concerned about the shortage of women in the Anchorage judiciary.
"When I first became a judge, there were more women judges in the Superior Court, so the numbers have dwindled," Joannides said.
And as of today, it's dwindled by one more. Out of 15 judges in Anchorage Superior court, only one woman remains, Judge Sharon Gleason.