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Ann Claire Williams: Wikis


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Ann Claire Williams (born August 16, 1949) is a United States Circuit Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.


Early life and education

Born in Detroit, Williams earned a bachelor's degree from Wayne State University in 1970. Before becoming a lawyer, Williams began her career as a music and third grade teacher in the inner city public schools of Detroit, Michigan, after graduating with a Bachelor's Degree from Wayne State University in Elementary Education and a Master's Degree in Guidance and Counseling from the University of Michigan while working full time. She received her Juris Doctor from the University of Notre Dame.

Professional career

After law school, Williams’s legal career began as a law clerk with Judge Robert A. Sprecher of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. She was one of the first two African American law clerks in that court. She then worked as an Assistant United States Attorney in Chicago for nine years, trying major felony cases and appearing before the Seventh Circuit. She was the first African American woman to serve as supervisor in that office and was promoted to deputy chief of the criminal receiving and appellate division. Ultimately, she became the first Chief of the Organized Drug Enforcement Task Force, responsible for organizing federal investigation and prosecution activities for a five-state region.

In 1979, Williams began serving as an adjunct professor and lecturer at Northwestern University School of Law and at the John Marshall Law School (Chicago).

Federal judicial service

Williams was a U.S. District Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois from 1985 until 1999. President Reagan had nominated her on March 13, 1985 to a newly created district court seat, and she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on April 3, 1985. Her confirmation made her the first-ever African-American female judge appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

On August 5, 1999, President Clinton nominated Williams to a vacancy on the Seventh Circuit that occurred because of the retirement of Judge Walter J. Cummings, Jr.. Williams was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate in a voice vote on November 10, 1999. Her Senate confirmation made Williams the first-ever African-American judge on the Seventh Circuit.

In May 2009, Williams was mentioned by several media outlets as a possible choice for nomination to the Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice David Souter.[1]

Professional Recognition and Awards

Judge Williams has received numerous awards from schools and legal organizations for her contributions to the law and the legal community. In 2000, Williams received the Chicago Lawyer Person of the Year award, and in 2004, both Crain’s magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times named her as one of Chicago’s 100 Most Influential and Powerful Women. In 2005, Judge Williams received the Arabella Babb Mansfield Award from the National Association of Women Lawyers, the organization’s highest honor. In 2006, she received the Spirit of Excellence Award, the highest honor awarded by the American Bar Association’s Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession. In 2007, Judge Williams received awards from the BWLA and MLER organizations that she co-founded. That year, she was also inducted into the Cook County Bar Association’s Hall of Fame.

Other awards that Judge Williams has received include the William H. Hastie Award from the National Bar Association; the Chicago Bar Association’s Vanguard Award and Earl Burrus Dickerson Award; the Illinois Judicial Council Special Achievement Award; the Woman with Vision Award from the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois; the Women Making History Award from the National Council of Negro Women; and the National Black Law Students Association Alumni Award. Judge Williams has also received Honorary Degrees from the Universities of Notre Dame and Portland, Chicago-Kent, and William Mitchell Colleges of Law, and St. Mary’s, Colby, and Lake Forest Colleges, as well as numerous awards from other universities and legal organizations.

In addition to her memberships in various bar groups, including the Chicago, Women’s, Cook County, Black Women Lawyers, Federal, and American Bar Associations, Judge Williams also serves on the Board of Trustees of the University of Notre Dame, The National Institute for Trial Advocacy, Equal Justice Works, and Just The Beginning Foundation. She is also a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

Political views

In an article in the Chicago Tribune on December 11, 1999, Judge Williams declined to say whether she is a Republican or a Democrat, instead calling herself politically independent. "I've written on thousands of cases across the board, and I think it would be hard to type me," she said. "I don't think there is a type. I am not in Congress. We don't legislate in the courts."[2]

International Contributions

Internationally, in 2006, Judge Williams co-led a conference on constitutional law and law reform in Nairobi, Kenya attended by over 125 Kenyan attorneys. Later that year, Judge Williams was invited by the Chief Justice of Kenya as the first non-Kenyan judge to attend and address the Kenyan Judicial Colloquium, an annual four-day gathering of the Kenyan judiciary, on issues such as mediation, case management, and judicial ethics. At the Chief Justice's invitation, Judge Williams returned in 2007 and 2008 to present to the Colloquium issues relating to judicial training around the world. During that visit, Judge Williams also spearheaded and taught at the first Kenyan Women's Trial Advocacy Program for lawyers who represent victims of domestic violence. Judge Williams returned in August 2008 to lead another women's trial advocacy training program for 40-50 Kenyan lawyers and law students.

In 2007, Judge Williams led a delegation in Liberia for Lawyers Without Borders, teaching trial advocacy skills to Liberian magistrate judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys. She plans to return in 2008 to spearhead training for all of Liberia's circuit trial judges and twenty additional lawyers. Also in 2007, Judge Williams was invited to and attended meetings in the United States and Canada as one of 28 delegates of the Canada-United States Legal Exchange Program attended by judges and members of the United States Supreme Court, the Supreme Court of Canada and the American College of Trial Lawyers.

In 2002 and 2003, Judge Williams led delegations to Ghana to train members of the Ghanaian judiciary in areas including judicial ethics, case management, and alternative dispute resolution. She has been influential in developing an ongoing relationship between the Ghanaian and United States judiciaries, and in 2004, she hosted in the United States a delegation from Ghana, which included the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ghana and other Ghanaian judges during their three-week study of the United States courts. In 2008 trained Federal Judicial center Ghanaian Judges at the new Judicial Training Center in collaboration with Fordham Law School and other organizations in the creation of the Ghana Judicial Training Center.

For several years, Judge Williams has also served as a member of international training delegations that have traveled to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania and the Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at the Hague. On her multiple trips to the ICTR and ICTY, she has taught trial and appellate advocacy courses to prosecutors of persons accused of serious violations of human rights law committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.


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