SANTA CRUZ — Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Jeff Almquist, whose appointment to the bench capped a law career that began in 1971, died Sunday while on vacation in France. He was 70.
Almquist was appointed to the bench in October 2003 by then California Gov. Gray Davis. He served as the court’s presiding judge in 2010 and 2011, and guided the court through an “extraordinarily difficult budget crisis with great leadership,” Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Paul Burdick said.
Almquist most enjoyed the family law assignment in which he sat for the past seven years in the Watsonville branch, Burdick said. He also sat in the civil and criminal assignments during his bench career.
Before his appointment to the bench, Almquist was elected to the Santa Cruz Board of Supervisors Fifth District in 1996 and re-elected in 2000.
“He also served on the Regional Transportation Commission and Library Board during his time as a county supervisor, always bringing thoughtful analysis to challenging countywide issues,” Burdick said.
Almquist also served on the Santa Cruz County Board of Education, representing the San Lorenzo Valley area.
Almquist was a lawyer in private practice in California from 1976 to 1996, focused on business and bankruptcy litigation. He was a graduate of Yale University and the University of Connecticut School of Law, and he worked during and after law school in the administration of Connecticut Gov. Thomas Meskill from 1971 to 1974.
Almquist is survived by his wife Julie of 41 years, his sons Sam of El Paso and John of San Francisco, along with his daughters in law, Sara and Doris; sister Jennifer, and Julie’s sisters, along with their extended families.
“He is going to be sorely missed by all his colleagues,” Burdick said. “He was very well liked and very well respected.”
Almquist’s death came just as his friends and family were planning a giant January retirement party for him. He and his wife Julie were set to travel in his retirement.
“About 300 people have RSVP’d to the party and now they will be attending a wake,” Burdick said.