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Karen J. Williams

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This page is about a former federal judge for the Fourth Circuit. If you are looking for information on the federal magistrate judge for the District of New Jersey, please see Karen Williams.

Karen J. Williams
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Current Court Information:
United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
Title:   Former Judge
Appointed by:   George H.W. Bush
Active:   3/2/1992 - 7/8/2009
Chief:   2007-2009
Preceded by:   Robert Chapman
Personal History
Born:   1951
Hometown:   Orangeburg, SC
Undergraduate:   Columbia '72
Law School:   U. of South Carolina Law '80
Karen J. Williams (b. 1951) was a federal judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. She joined the court in 1992 after being nominated by President George H.W. Bush. Judge Williams served as the chief judge of the court from 2007-2009. She assumed senior status on July 8, 2009, and retired from the court shortly thereafter due to her diagnosis of the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. Williams died in November 2013.[1][2][3]

Early life and education

Born in Orangeburg, South Carolina, Williams graduated from Columbia College with her bachelor's degree in 1972 and later obtained her Juris Doctor degree from the University of South Carolina Law Center in 1980.[2]


Williams was a private practice attorney licensed in the State of South Carolina from 1980 to 1992.[2]

Federal judicial career

On the recommendation of South Carolina U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond, Williams was nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on January 27, 1992 by President George H.W. Bush to fill a seat vacated by Robert Foster Chapman. Williams was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on February 27, 1992 on the unanimous consent of the Senate and received commission on March 2, 1992.[4]


Judge Williams announced her retirement to President Obama due to her diagnosis of the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. Judge Williams was 57 years old at the time of the diagnosis. William Traxler will become the new chief judge of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals[5]

In an interview with the Washington Post Judge Williams' daughter Marian Scalise, said that her mother made a wrenching decision to leave a job she loves but did so promptly after her diagnosis to make sure she retired before any of her opinions could be questioned. "The court has always been in her life. She has always loved the court, and serving the citizens, and making sure her opinions were correct as far as the law is concerned. It's so difficult for her to step away from that".[5]

External links


Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
Robert Chapman
Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
Succeeded by: