San Diego Superior Court Judge Laura W. Halgren Retires
The Honorable Laura W. Halgren recently completed her last day on the San Diego Superior Court bench, capping more than 20 years as a judge with assignments across criminal, civil, and family courts. Much of Judge Halgren’s time was spent in the criminal courts including trials, sentencings, and the unique experience of overseeing a criminal calendar during the COVID-19 pandemic when remote appearances were coordinated for defendants to handle courtroom matters without leaving the jails.
Throughout her career, Judge Halgren has focused on ethics and supporting her colleagues to be held to the highest standards. Judge Halgren served for seven years, including one year as the committee chair, on the California Judges Association’s Judicial Ethics Committee, fielding hotline calls from judges throughout the state and providing ethics advice.
“My participation in judicial ethics education and advising has been a highlight of my career,” said Judge Halgren. “Judicial ethics are at the core of the integrity of judicial decision making.”
Beginning in 2012, she served on the Center for Judicial Education and Research (CJER) Qualifying Ethics Work Groups to develop the curriculum for Qualified Ethics programs, which are mandatory judicial ethics trainings for all judges across the state. Judge Halgren was appointed to the CJER Judicial Branch Access, Ethics and Fairness Curriculum Committee in 2013 and was honored to join the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on the Code of Judicial Ethics in 2018 through the present, advising the California Supreme Court on proposed amendments to the Code of Judicial Ethics.
Judge Halgren’s statewide service also included participation on the California Judges’ Association Criminal Law and Judicial Outreach Committees, and she was a member of the Judicial Council’s Trial Court Facility Modification Advisory Committee from 2011-14 with oversight of an annual budget of $30-50 million for statewide courthouse facilities improvements.
Locally, Judge Halgren initiated the first Court-Clergy Conference in San Diego in 2015 and chaired the ensuing biennial conferences through 2022. Each day-long conference brings clergy members of all faiths to the courthouse where they interact with judges and learn about legal issues their congregation members face.
“The clergy conferences provide a wonderful opportunity for court outreach where clergy can take the information they learn back to their congregations and increase knowledge of the court system dramatically,” said Judge Halgren. “I am proud I was able to initiate this program.”
Beyond the Court-Clergy Conference, Judge Halgren was on the Court’s Executive Committee for a total of eight years, and she also spent two years as the supervising judge for the East County courthouse. Judge Halgren was heavily involved in local court committees including years on the Ad Hoc Budget Committee, the New Central Courthouse Committee and Working Group, Education Committee, and many other policy and procedure committees.
“Judge Halgren has been a simply extraordinary judicial officer, serving the court and the public with dedication, legal acumen, and kindness for over two decades,” said Judge Michael Smyth, San Diego Superior Court Presiding Judge. “Even in her final year, Judge Halgren volunteered to preside in our busy felony arraignment department because she knew that recent changes in the law would be difficult, but vital, to be implemented correctly. Selfless to the end – that is Judge Halgren.”
Judge Halgren was the Superior Court Judicial Liaison to the San Diego County Bar Association Legal Ethics Committee from 2010-2012 and has been a speaker to judges and lawyers on multiple topics including judicial and legal ethics, civil litigation, family law, criminal law, and domestic violence.
Before her appointment to the San Diego Superior Court, Judge Halgren worked in the California Attorney General’s Office, initially as a deputy attorney general in the criminal division, and eventually became Deputy Senior Assistant Attorney General where she was second-in-charge of Appeals, Writs and Trials Section in San Diego. She began her legal career in private practice at Gray, Cary, Ames & Frye as a Civil Litigation associate following her graduation from UCLA Law School.
In retirement, Judge Halgren plans to travel, enjoy family and explore opportunities for civic involvement.