SANTA CRUZ COUNTY — Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Heather D. Morse announced her retirement from the bench effective Nov. 2.
Morse has the distinction of being the longest serving judge in Santa Cruz County history since her appointment on July 23, 1989. She also holds the honor of being the first woman judge in the history of Santa Cruz County.
Morse began her court career as a Santa Cruz Municipal Court Deputy Clerk in 1976. She earned her Juris Doctor in 1978 at the University of San Francisco Law School and served as a Deputy Probation Officer in 1977 and 1978.
She was a Deputy District Attorney in Monterey County from 1982 to 1984 and Assistant District Attorney for Santa Cruz County from 1984 until her appointment to the bench in July 1989. In that capacity she handled cases including sexual assault, child abuse and homicide cases.
In July 1989, Morse was appointed to the Santa Cruz Municipal Court by Governor George Deukmejian. She served as the presiding judge of that court in 1991 and again in 1999. She also served as the presiding judge of the Santa Cruz Superior Court in 2006 and 2007, and she is currently the Juvenile Court Presiding Judge.
In her career, Morse has also served on the Judicial Council of the State of California, which is the policymaking body of the entire California court system. She was a guiding force instrumental in the creation of the courthouse at the Watsonville Civic Plaza, which opened in 2008 after years of collaboration between the Santa Cruz Superior Court, the City of Watsonville and the County of Santa Cruz.
She also established a mental health review court in the Santa Cruz Superior Court which has won accolades and been recognized by the Judicial Council and the California Association of Counties for its effectiveness.