Judge with Vincentian roots elected to  Philadelphia Court
Judge, Samantha Williams
Front Page
July 28, 2023

Judge with Vincentian roots elected to Philadelphia Court

With a St Vincent and the Grenadines flag tucked away in the corner of her new office, and armed with the mindset that justice will be meted out fairly and impartially, one of Philadelphia’s newly elected judges, Samantha Williams, is writing her name in history and bringing joy to her family in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).

Judge Williams, at just 35 years old, will be joining the criminal division of the Court of Common Pleas after claiming victory in the Philadelphia Primary Election on May 16, amassing 121,340 votes.

Currently the youngest serving Judge on the Court of Common Pleas, Williams has built up an impressive legal portfolio as Assistant District Attorney in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, a director of legislation and policy in Philadelphia City Council, and also as an adjunct professor at Temple University Law School.

In a virtual interview with SEARCHLIGHT, Judge Williams said even though she was born in the US, her Vincentian roots, buried in the North Central Windward community of Park Hill, are evident in her work ethic.

“… One of the most important things about being from an immigrant family from the Caribbean is our work; because we come to this country to make better lives for ourselves and to be able to send money back, bring more people over and continue our legacy in a new land. That’s something that I never took for granted, which always caused me to work hard.”

“People think that you have to wait and wait and wait and wait until you follow your dreams. But people from the Caribbean who have been chasing after these goals for a very long time know that you don’t have to wait, you just have to work, “ the judge said.

Judge Williams’ dedication to serve her community, first and foremost, has seen her standing at the helm of major reforms in the Philadelphia courts which included laws that reduced the backlog of cases in the Municipal Court for minor offences like disorderly conduct and open alcohol containers.

“What that did in effect is it allowed these cases to stop clogging up the system. The police don’t have to arrest any more and they could just give you a ticket and you pay the ticket and everybody’s happy. And so that’s one of the things that you could see and work on if you’re someone that’s been in the courtroom but had the opportunity to kind of step outside the courtroom and have this more global approach of what’s going on.”

Judge Williams also established the legislation for the Citizens Police Oversight Commission for which she received the Distinguished Leader Award in 2022.

The Commission comprises independent residents who take on complaints against the police and work to try to resolve these issues. She explained that the relationship between the City’s police department and residents, the majority of them Black, has not always been ideal and so the Commission was set up as a way to help address these tensions.

“The residents don’t have to necessarily go to an agency they don’t trust for help. They can go to someone else and have those individuals kind of intervene.”

Judge Williams said she recognizes the challenges that lie in balancing the administration of justice with the City’s history of over-incarceration.

“My city is experiencing a very hard time in terms of public safety. There are a significant amount of homicides that occur certainly on a daily basis throughout the city. There’s also a lot of other crime going on, and it makes things difficult for everybody who’s living in the City.We also have to balance that with the history that we’ve had in this city of over-incarceration, so we have to balance public safety and reform. I’m just hoping I do a good job at running my courtroom. I know that I’ll be fair to everyone that enters the door.”