Karen Williams, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, has resigned due to illness. Judge Williams has been on the Fourth Circuit since 1992. She is only 57 years old.
Prior to her nomination, Williams practiced law in Orangeburg, South Carolina with her husband in the firm of Williams and Williams. Her husband is the son of a close friend of Strom Thurmond, and it was Thurmond who prevailed on President George H.W. Bush to nominate her to the Fourth Circuit. She became the first female to serve on that court.
At the time, the nomination made conservatives nervous. First, Williams had no judicial track record. Second, if I recall correctly, she and her husband were both Democrats.
However, Judge Williams proved to be an outstanding judge. In 2005, when Justice O’Connor retired, Judge Williams was on some reasonably short lists as a possible replacement. Conservatives familiar with her performance on the Fourth Circuit would not have been disappointed if President Bush had nominated her.
Judge Williams’ retirement opens the way for President Obama to add a liberal to the Fourth Circuit. Coupled with the recently confirmed Judge Davis, another Obama selection would likely tip the balance of power on this important court in favor of the left.
For this, we can thank the dithering of President Bush, who failed to fill some vacancies and filled others with liberal-leaning judges. We can also thank Sen. Lindsey Graham, who blocked the nomination of the excellent William James Haynes. I don’t call Senator Graham the Arlen Specter of the South for nothing.
I understand that Williams will be succeeded as Chief Judge by William Traxler, a Clinton nominee.
We wish Judge Williams all the best.