Experience will guide Williams in new role as District Court judge
Published 7:30 am Wednesday, November 15, 2023
Jason Williams’ vast experience in the courtroom will guide him in his new role as a District Court Judge for District 2 (Beaufort, Hyde, Martin, Tyrell and Washington Counties). Williams was appointed earlier this month by Governor Roy Cooper to fill a vacancy left by the Honorable Christopher McLendon who retired. Williams will join three other judges who are District Court judges that rotate from county to county covering a variety of cases.
Williams has always preferred jobs where each day is different than the next as evidenced by his resume which includes volunteering then working for Legal Aid, working at the Public Defender office in Greenville and opening his own practice in Washington.
Licensed in September of 1997, Williams began volunteering with Legal Aid of North Carolina until he was hired there in February of 1998. Legal Aid provides legal and non-legal services to people who cannot afford an attorney.
For four-and-a-half years he handled cases on domestic violence, family law, Social Security, Medicaid disability, Food Stamps and other public benefits, wills and estate planning, landlord-tenant disputes, unemployment claims and consumer law. These cases came from ten surrounding counties, some of which are part of District 2.
Williams’ work with Legal Aid was impactful for him, because it gave him a chance to help those who had little to no resources. “It really makes a big deal to somebody who doesn’t have anything – someone who is totally poor if they have Medicaid to cover medical expenses or they can get medications or doctors visits. If they can get that paid by Medicaid, it really makes a difference,” Williams said.
He continued, “you can only imagine somebody trying to get out of an abusive relationship and what it means to somebody, an attorney, helping them do that as opposed to them trying to do that themselves or staying in a relationship.”
His work with Legal Aid changed his perspective about being inside the courtroom. He began enjoying being in the courtroom, because he felt his work was meaningful and made differences in people’s lives.
As a law student at the University of Florida, Williams had “no idea” about the kinds of cases he would later take on, but he hoped he would never see the inside of a courtroom “which is really funny, because clearly I see the inside of two or three of them every day.”
Williams left Legal Aid to work in the Public Defender office in Greenville but was only there for 18 months, because he did not enjoy doing the same work every day which is why in October of 2003, he opened his own firm in Washington.
Williams admits to feeling a “little nervous” about his appointment to serve District 2. The cases that will be before him as a Judge will not be foreign to him, because similar cases have come across his desk at his practice in Washington for the last 20 years. Williams was contracted to represent the Martin and Washington County Departments of Social Services.
Prior to his appointment, most cases Williams handled were in juvenile court.
“I feel like with all of that kind of experience – there’s not a whole lot that is going to come up that I haven’t at least had some experience with,” Williams said. “I certainly have a lot to learn about a lot of things, but I have experienced a lot of what a District Court Judge does from day to day.”
Williams will fill a vacancy created by the Honorable Christopher B. McLendon who retired last month after serving 11 years as a District Court judge.
Williams hopes that as judge he will be like McLendon who generously gave advice and encouragement to new attorneys. Williams and McLendon spoke often when Williams represented the Martin County Department of Social Services. McLendon was always appointed to that court.
“Judge McLendon is somebody who goes out of his way to help lawyers and he’s always there for advice. He doesn’t want lawyers to sit around and wait on things. He tries to make it so lawyers can get out of his court and go to somebody else’s court, because he knows how hard it is to practice law…,” Williams said. He added that McLendon was always respectful and kind to anyone who entered the courtroom.
Williams will have his first cases as a District Court judge during the second week of December.
Williams grew up in Grifton, graduated from Ayden-Grifton High School in 1990. He then earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from East Carolina in 1994 and later his Juris Doctor from the University of Florida in 1997. He returned to Eastern North Carolina to take the bar exam.