In January 2023, President Biden appointed the Hon. Helena Heath to serve as Director of the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART Office). Ms. Heath directs the grant making and policy work of the SMART Office, which administers $20 million in grants annually and works with federal partners to implement the standards for the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) for the 50 states, five principal U.S. territories, the District of Columbia and approximately 160 tribes.
Ms. Heath has 33 years of public service legal experience. In 2005, she was appointed an Albany City Court Judge, becoming the first woman 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. After serving on the bench for 16 years, Ms. Heath retired from state service to pursue federal government service in Washington, D.C.
As a city court judge, Ms. Heath presided over trials and proceedings in the Criminal, Civil and Traffic parts of the court. She implemented the first DWI court in Albany, New York, and had a lead role in creating user-friendly court practices to implement the eviction moratorium provision of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and related state laws.
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.
In 1994, Ms. Heath 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, in Upstate New York, 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 (New York), 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.
Ms. 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.