President Biden Taps New York State Judge to Lead Justice Department’s SMART Office
WASHINGTON – Office of Justice Programs Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Amy L. Solomon announced today that President Biden has appointed Judge Helena Heath of Queens, New York, as Director of the Office of Justice Programs’ Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking Office. Her appointment is effective Monday, January 30.
“Judge Heath is an accomplished legal professional with deep roots in her community who will bring to her new role a wealth of courtroom experience, a record of sound judgment and a proven commitment to fairness and equity,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Solomon. “I could not be more pleased to have someone with her impressive credentials and sensitivity to local needs directing the critical mission of our SMART Office.”
Heath was appointed an Albany City Court Judge in 2005, becoming the first female of African descent to serve in the position in the city's 319-year history. She was elected in November 2005 to a full term of office and re-elected in 2011 and 2017. The court is part of the New York State Unified Court System.
Judge Heath served on the bench for 16 years, presiding over trials and proceedings in the Criminal, Civil and Traffic parts of the court. She implemented the first DWI court in the city of Albany. The court focused on accountability and participation in victim impact programming. She also had a lead role in creating user-friendly court practices to implement the eviction moratorium provision of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act and related state laws.
Judge Heath has 33 years of public service legal experience. Before ascending to the bench, she served as a court attorney at the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state; an Assistant Attorney General in the Litigation Bureau of the New York State Department of Law; an Assistant Counsel to the New York State Department of Economic Development; a Law Guardian representing children in Albany County Family Court; and a Senior Counsel for the New York State Assembly Speaker.
Judge Heath’s community service dedication is longstanding. In 1994, she organized a local effort in Albany that resulted in the establishment of a Children’s Center at Albany County Family Court. From 1995 to August 2022, she served as the founding chair of the center’s Advisory Committee to ensure that children are cared for in a safe and nurturing environment while their families take care of court business. She has served for 15 years as a board member for the Capital Area Boys and Girls Clubs and been involved for decades with organizations committed to the empowerment and mentorship of youth.
As co-chair of the Diversity and Gender Fairness Committee of the Capital District Women's Bar Association, she coordinated programs for law students of color to expose them to a variety of career paths, share keys to becoming successful lawyers and explore how attorneys can overcome gender and racial barriers in the legal profession.
“I am deeply grateful to be appointed by President Biden and serve with the outstanding staff at the Office of Justice Programs to protect children, enhance public safety and empower communities in furtherance of the mission of the SMART Office,” said Judge Heath. “It is a dream come true to continue my public service legal career at the Department of Justice and make a positive difference in the lives of families across our great nation.”
Judge Heath graduated from New York University School of Law in 1987. She was awarded the prestigious Root-Tilden-Snow Scholarship based on her academic excellence and her commitment to public service law. She attended John Jay College of Criminal Justice and received her Bachelor of Science in 1984.
Judge Heath takes over the leadership post from Dawn Doran, who has served as the SMART Office’s acting director and will resume her role as the office’s deputy director. The SMART Office was authorized by the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 to implement the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act. The office provides assistance to criminal justice professionals across the entire spectrum of sex offender management activities needed to ensure public safety.
About the Office of Justice Programs
The Office of Justice Programs provides federal leadership, grants, training, technical assistance and other resources to improve the nation’s capacity to prevent and reduce crime, advance racial equity in the administration of justice, assist victims and enhance the rule of law.
More information about OJP and its components can be found at www.ojp.gov.