Login | May 28, 2020

OSBA honors chief justice and Akron’s Judge Annalisa S. Williams

Published: September 17, 2018

COLUMBUS––Ohio State Bar Association President Robin Weaver honored Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Akron Municipal Court Judge Annalisa S. Williams with awards for judicial excellence and innovation at the Ohio Judicial Conference Annual Meeting Thursday at the Hilton Easton in Columbus.

Chief Justice O’Connor is the recipient of the 2018 Thomas J. Moyer Award for Judicial Excellence. 
The Moyer award was established in 2010 by the OSBA in honor of the late Chief Justice, who was posthumously given the inaugural award, to recognize a current or former Ohio state or federal judge who displays outstanding qualities of judicial excellence including integrity, fairness, open-mindedness, knowledge of the law, professionalism, ethics, creativity, sound judgment, courage and decisiveness.

In a career spanning almost four decades of public service, Chief Justice O’Connor has had many roles including practicing attorney, magistrate, common pleas court judge, prosecutor and Ohio lieutenant governor. She was first elected to the high court in 2003 and in 2010, she was elected chief justice, carrying all 88 Ohio counties. Upon her election, she became the court’s first female chief justice.

“Since becoming Ohio’s top judicial officer, Chief Justice O’Connor has been a champion for the people of Ohio, and particularly, for the most vulnerable among us,” said Weaver. “All Ohioans can be proud of her leadership on the state, national and international stage, where she has used her considerable and growing influence to champion judicial reform, judicial independence and judicial accountability.”

In addition to presiding over hundreds of cases, Chief Justice O’Connor has actively engaged in improving the administration of justice. Among other things, she established task forces to promote the creation of commercial dockets, increase access to justice, adopt the Uniform Bar Examination in Ohio and examine the state’s administration of the death penalty. For the past year, she has served as president of the National Conference of Chief Justices, leading an unprecedented, multi-state effort to combat the opioid epidemic.

The chief justice earned her undergraduate degree at Seton Hill College and her law degree at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.

Weaver will also present the 2018 Judicial Administration and Legal Reform Committee Innovative Court Practices Award to the Akron Municipal Court Peace of Mind Program created and led by Judge Annalisa S. Williams.

The purpose of the Innovative Court Practices Award is to bring greater visibility to exemplary programs in Ohio's courts and to facilitate the transfer of those programs to other courts in the state. Award submissions are evaluated on criteria including creativity, the newness of the program and its effectiveness, as well as the transferability of the concept to other courts and whether the program addresses significant issues that are regional in scope.

Judge Williams started the Peace of Mind Program after seeing an epidemic of female offenders cycling in and out of the criminal justice system. The program provides a forum for female defendants on probation to develop coping skills, reduce their fines and court costs and terminate their probation. It aims to help participants change their thinking processes in order to change their reaction to life events and lessen their risk of reoffending. Since its inception in 2015, Peace of Mind has had 36 graduates.

“Judge Williams is a great teacher because she is passionate about helping those suffering from mental illness, and getting to the bottom of the unique circumstances that brought them in to the criminal justice system,” Weaver said. “That is what the Peace of Mind probation program is all about.” 

The Peace of Mind Program succeeds with the help of a small, dedicated team: Akron Municipal Court Chief Probation Officer Tony Ingram, Akron Municipal Court Community Service Coordinator Staci Sanderson, and Akron Municipal Court Probation Officer Alissa Streeter and her fellow Akron Municipal Court judges who refer viable candidates to the program.

Judge Williams was elected to the Akron Municipal Court in 2003 and has presided over the court’s mental health docket since 2005, receiving national recognition for her involvement. Due in large part to her work, the Akron Municipal Mental Health Court is designated as one of five original learning sites by the Bureau of Justice and Assistance and the Council of State Governments.

Judge Williams is a trustee of the Ohio Judicial College and a member of the Ohio Supreme Court Commission on Specialized Dockets. She received her undergraduate degree from Kent State University, her master’s degree from the University of Akron and her law degree from the University of Akron School of Law.