Chief Judge Charles E. Williams

Charles E Williams headshotChief Judge Charles E. Williams was born in Durham, North Carolina and raised in St. Petersburg, Florida. He graduated from Howard University and the University of Florida College of Law

After a career in the State Attorney and Public Defender’s Offices he went into local private law practice.  He was later appointed to be a Circuit Court Judge by Governor Lawton Chiles.

He has served on numerous Committees and Boards but he is most proud of his work and partnerships  with the Palmetto Youth Center, the Booker High School Law Academy, Florida Studio Theatre and the Sarasota County Bar Association’s Diversity Committee.

Each summer the Diversity Committee provides opportunities for minority law students to work locally in law firms and government agencies. The goal of this committee is to encourage these students to return to practice law in this community so that the local legal profession will become more inclusive.   In addition to their summer salaries, up to $5000 is awarded to each student to go towards their law school tuition when their summer employment has concluded.

This past summer four law students took part in the program and to date close to $100,000 has been awarded toward tuition for these scholars since the program was started in 2007.

Judge Williams also writes, directs, and produces documentary films.  His film “Through The Tunnel” won Best Historical Documentary at the DocMiami International Film Festival.

His most recent film, “The Enduring Beauty of Memory” won Best Documentary Film at the 2014 Movieville Film Festival.

Currently he is working with students from Booker High School and the Sarasota Film Festival Education Outreach program on a film celebrating the Newtown Centennial.  This film is scheduled to premiere at the 2015 Sarasota Film Festival.

Recently he was part of a program at Florida Studio Theatre that brought in over 1700 Sarasota high school students to see the play “Thurgood”, which chronicled the life and times of NAACP Attorney and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

The educational outreach of this production included in school discussions of the issues brought up by the play, post play discussions with the actor, a conversation with Pulitzer Prize winning author Gilbert King, and several panel discussions involving members of the Sarasota community that touched on issues of race, class and diversity locally.

Judge Williams has partnered with New College of Florida and the Daughters for Life Foundation to educate women from the Middle East. The scholars are provided full four year scholarships to New College. This year’s class welcomes students from Jordan, Syria, Palestine and Israel. It is hoped these students will become effective advocates for positive change in their home countries.

He is the recipient of the Sarasota County Branch NAACP’s 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award.

He is the recipient of the 2014 C.L. McKaig Award, in recognition and appreciation of his tireless dedication to promoting the ideals of equality, justice, and professionalism.

In February 2015 Judge Williams was elected by his fellow judges to serve as Chief Judge for the 12th Judicial Circuit commencing July 1st, 2015.

He credits his parents, both of whom were educators, with instilling in him the obligation to give back to the community and to emphasize the value of education for all people, young and old alike.

He is married to Jacquelyn Woods and has two daughters, Charlette and Caitlin.