Judge Cassandra Collier-Williams
During Black History Month, Judge Cassandra Collier-Williams wants to make something very clear, “We celebrate Black history every single day of the year…365 days.”
Judge Collier-Williams is one of four African American Judges currently on the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court General Division Bench, a number she notes is far too low. Along with Judge Collier-Williams are Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold, Judge Wanda C. Jones, and Judge Deborah Turner.
“The Common Pleas Bench has been around since the 1800s,” says Judge Collier-Williams. “We are making history every day because I am just the fourth African-American female to be elected to the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas General Division.” The other Judges preceding her were Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, Lillian Greene, and Shirley Strickland Saffold.
Judge Collier-Williams joined the Bench in 2013 after a successful 13-year career running her own law office. She is a proud graduate of Springfield South (Ohio) High School, where she was the first female drum major. After attending Miami University, Judge Collier-Williams received her law degree from the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law and was admitted to the bar in 1991.
While in law school, she worked as a mediator in the City of Cleveland Law Department under City Prosecutor Patricia Blackmon, who was later elected to the 8th District Court of Appeals. Judge Collier-Williams then worked for George Forbes at Forbes, Forbes, and Teamor (“You learn how to be steel tough.”) for ten years after graduation. In 1999, she opened her practice, and for the first two years worked out of her own home.
Judge Collier-Williams says her mother urged her to be a lawyer, but always envisioned her daughter as a Judge. Her own reason for seeking the Bench was that the Judge thought she could make a difference. “I thought that it was important that (people) can look at the Judge and think, ‘Wow, she looks like me.’”
As for the next generation of students, lawyers, and even Judges? Judge Collier-Williams says they can be whatever they want to be. “You just have to put the work into it. Everything takes work. And the greater the work ethic, the greater the reward will be.”
For more on Judge Cassandra Collier-Williams, you can stream the entire interview below!