Hon. Ann Claire Williams (Ret.) is Of Counsel at Jones Day, where she leads its efforts in advancing the rule of law in Africa. Devoted to promoting the effective delivery of justice worldwide, Judge Williams has partnered with judiciaries, attorneys, NGOs and the U.S. Departments of Justice and State to design and lead training programs in Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
In November of 1999, Judge Williams became the first and only judge of color appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Before she became a circuit judge, she served as a U.S. District Court judge for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago from 1985 to 1999. She retired from being a judge in early 2018.
While on the bench, she was chair of the Court Administration and Case Management Committee of the U.S. Judicial Conference from 1993 to 1997, served on the Supreme Court Fellows Program Commission from 2005 to 2011, and served on the Judicial Branch Committee from 2009 to 2018. She was treasurer, president-elect, and president of the Federal Judges Association, which has a membership of more than 1,200 federal judges. In each of these positions, she was the first judge of color to serve.
Committed to public interest work throughout her life, Judge Williams helped found Just The Beginning–A Pipeline Organization, the Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Chicago, Minority Legal Education Resources, Inc., and the Public Interest Fellowship Program of Equal Justice Works. A lifelong educator, she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Wayne State University and an MA in Guidance and Counseling from the University of Michigan. She taught in the Detroit Public Schools before obtaining her JD from the Notre Dame Law School.