Story and photo by Cathy Kuehner

In March, the General Assembly appointed Clarke County Commonwealth’s Attorney Anne M. Williams to serve as a General District Court judge for the 26th Judicial Circuit of Virginia. She begins her six-year term on Aug. 1. Williams, 42, was first sworn in as Commonwealth’s Attorney in April 2017, when her predecessor Suzanne “Suni” Mackall retired; Williams was then twice reelected. Williams may be assigned to any court in the 26th Judicial Circuit, which encompasses much of the northern 
Shenandoah Valley.

Williams applied for a judgeship when a vacancy was announced earlier this year. Current General District Court Judge Chris Collins will move to the Circuit Court bench when Judge Brian Madden retires on July 31. She appeared before a House and Senate committee in Richmond as part of the application process.

A judge is “the decision maker,” said Williams. “It’s a huge responsibility to decide legal issues. As an attorney, I make charging decisions. But, a judge decides outcomes.” She added, “Throughout my legal career, I’ve developed a great deal of admiration, appreciation, and respect for judges. I have appeared in front of many excellent judges in the 26th judicial circuit, and I want to emulate what I’ve seen from them. I particularly want to perpetuate the culture of fairness to all participants in the courtroom.”

While legal issues are complex and challenging, so too was deciding to leave her current position. “I’m leaving a job I absolutely love,” Williams said, noting the people she will miss — Clarke County co-workers, most especially the law enforcement officers with whom she worked on so many cases.

“We all know Clarke County is the best place to be,” she said, smiling, “and that is because of the people. There are good people doing work here I could not do. But, law is something I can contribute, and it has been an honor to serve 
Clarke County.”

The Clarke County Commonwealth’s Attorney prosecutes criminal cases for the Commonwealth of Virginia, Clarke County, and the Town of Berryville. The next Commonwealth’s Attorney will be named in August and serve until a special election is held, most likely on Nov. 5, 2024.

At its April meeting, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion to petition Circuit Court to issue a writ of election for the Commonwealth’s Attorney.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to work with Anne Williams,” said Board chair David Weiss. “She is a professional in all aspects of her job, and she has kept Clarke County safe during her tenure as Commonwealth’s Attorney. Anne will apply these same qualities to her role as a judge.” He continued, “Anne will do an excellent job in her new position, and we wish her great success.”

Williams earned her undergraduate degree in international studies with a history minor from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn.

She studied law at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, spending one semester at Virginia’s Washington & Lee University School of Law after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. She also studied in Vienna, Austria and Budapest, Hungary, before receiving her law degree from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law in 2006.

Williams worked as a 
judicial clerk for the Circuit Court in Roanoke before moving back to the area. She worked as an associate attorney for William Bassler and as a partner for Harrison & Johnston PLC in Winchester. She became Clarke County’s Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney in 
August 2012. 

Williams grew up in Clarke County after her parents moved to White Post from Virginia’s Westmoreland County in 1989. She soon joined the local chapter of the United States Pony Club, and she has been the district commissioner of the Blue Ridge Pony Club 
since 2008.Williams’ husband, Matthew Peterson, is the executive director of the John & Janice Wyatt Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting equal educational opportunities for children and youth. They and their two young children live in Clarke County.