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Judge Ann Claire Williams (Ret.)
Of Counsel


(T) +1.312.269.1575
(F) +1.312.782.8585


  • University of Notre Dame (J.D. 1975); University of Michigan (M.A. in Guidance and Counseling 1972); Wayne State University (B.S. in Elementary Education 1970)

Bar Admissions

  • Illinois, Supreme Court of the United States, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois


  • Law Clerk to Judge Robert A. Sprecher, U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit (1975-1976)

Government Service

  • Judge: U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit (1999-2018) and U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (1985-1999); served with the U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Illinois (1976-1985) as Chief, Organized Drug Enforcement Task Force (1983-1985), Deputy Chief, Criminal Receiving and Appellate Division (1980-1983), and Assistant U.S. Attorney (1976-1980)

Judge Ann Claire Williams (Ret.), a trailblazer and leader, heads Jones Day's efforts in advancing the rule of law in Africa. Devoted to promoting the effective delivery of justice worldwide, particularly in Africa, she has partnered with judiciaries, attorneys, NGOs, and the U.S. Departments of Justice and State to lead training programs in Ghana, Indonesia, Liberia, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. She also has taught at the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

President Ronald Reagan nominated her in 1985 to the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, making her the first woman of color to serve on a district court in the three-state Seventh Circuit. In 1999, President William Clinton's nomination made her the first and only judge of color to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and the third woman of color to serve on any federal circuit court. She brings her vast experience on the bench to serve as a resource for the Firm's leading trial and appellate practices.

Judge Williams has served on many judicial committees and, as treasurer and president of the Federal Judges Association, was the first person of color to become an officer. Committed to public interest work throughout her life, she helped found Just The Beginning — A Pipeline Organization, the Black Women Lawyers' Association of Chicago, and Minority Legal Education Resources. She serves on the boards of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the University of Notre Dame, the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA), Equal Justice Works, and the Museum of Science & Industry Chicago.

Honors & Distinctions

  • Recipient of numerous awards and honors, including: Edward J. Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice Award; ABA's Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award; National Bar Association's Gertrude E. Rush Award; National Association of Women Lawyers' Arabella Babb Mansfield Award; Association of Corporate Counsel Chicago Chapter's Thurgood Marshall Award; Chicago Lawyer "Person of the Year"; Newsweek Daily Beast's "150 Fearless Women in the World"
Judge Ann Claire Williams