Government

U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee gives 19-2 vote for CJ Williams to become next Iowa district judge

Next step, confirmation of U.S. Senate

(FILE PHOTO) U.S. District Court Chief Judge Linda Reade (center) smiles during a ceremony honoring her for her years of service as Chief Magistrate Judge CJ Williams (left) and U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Strand (right) laugh at the U.S. District Courthouse in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017.  (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
(FILE PHOTO) U.S. District Court Chief Judge Linda Reade (center) smiles during a ceremony honoring her for her years of service as Chief Magistrate Judge CJ Williams (left) and U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Strand (right) laugh at the U.S. District Courthouse in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Chief Magistrate CJ Williams received a 19-2 vote from the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, sending him on his way to becoming the next district judge in the Northern District of Iowa.

Williams, 54, received a vote without discussion, along with five others receiving consideration for district or circuit judgeships.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the committee, and Sen. Joni Ernst recommended Williams for the position last year, and President Donald Trump then nominated him. Williams will now go before the full U.S. Senate for a vote on confirmation.

Prof. Carl Tobias, of University Richmond School of Law and federal judiciary expert, told The Gazette after the hearing Thursday that confirmation may not happen until June or July. There are four circuit and 26 district nominees ahead of Williams.

Tobias speculated that Grassley may ask Sen. Mitch McConnell to “leapfrog” Williams ahead. Grassley has done it in the past with Iowa judiciary nominees.

With no discussion before the vote, Tobias said its difficult to know why Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris gave “nays” to Williams, but they have been voting against most of President Donald Trump’s nominees. They also gave nays to three others Thursday.

“Judge Williams is a very talented attorney and judge, who is widely respected and recommended across the political spectrum back home in Iowa,” Grassley said in statement before Thursday’s vote. “He received a unanimously Well-Qualified rating from the ABA.”

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Last month before the committee, Ernst said Williams always strives to give back by working in the University of Iowa College of Law’s legal clinic, bringing drug awareness to youth in Cedar Rapids’ schools, and he also wrote a federal criminal textbook.

“He is also known for his “kindness, dedication and humility,” Ernst added.

Williams during that hearing was asked some questions regarding his judicial philosophy. He told committee members it’s not his job to make law. He will follow precedent — “whether it’s a good, bad or ugly decision.”

Williams will replace U.S. District Judge Linda Reade who took senior status in October but has maintained a full caseload because she is the only district judge in Cedar Rapids. U.S. District Chief Judge Leonard Strand handles a full caseload in Sioux City but also travels to Cedar Rapids to help on this side of the district.

Williams, a native of Mount Pleasant, received his Juris Doctor from the University of Iowa College of Law and his Masters of Law from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.

Williams served nearly two decades as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Iowa. As the chief magistrate, he presides over all pretrial matters in criminal and civil cases, along with presiding over the trials by agreement of the parties.

Earlier in his career, he served as a trial attorney in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and also served as a special assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia. He has received a number of awards from the FBI and the DEA for his work as a federal prosecutor

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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