Judge Richard J. Williams Named Acting Administrative Director of the Courts Effective August 1, 1999

For release: March 17, 1999
Contact: Patricia Shukis Fraser
(609) 984-3150

Chief Justice Deborah T. Poritz announced today that Assignment Judge Richard J. Williams of the Atlantic and Cape May Vicinage will be the next Acting Administrative Director of the Courts. Effective August 1, 1999, Judge Williams will be assigned to the Appellate Division and will assume the office of Acting Administrative Director.

Judge Williams will replace Judge James J. Ciancia, who began his tenure as Administrative Director on July 20, 1996, shortly after Chief Justice Poritz took office. In 1997, he was appointed a judge of the Superior Court and assigned to the Appellate Division. He then assumed the title of Acting Administrative Director. Judge Ciancia will become an active member of the Appellate Division on August 1. The change is one he sought.

Said Chief Justice Poritz: "Judge Ciancia has served the courts and the people of this state with distinction. He has led us in our efforts to unify the courts so as to ensure that the system is fair and evenhanded in its operation. Judge Williams has long done the same for the people of Atlantic and Cape May counties. As a former Chair of the Conference of Assignment Judges and through his experience on many of our major committees, Judge Williams has developed an understanding of both statewide issues and the Administrative Office of the Courts that will stand him in good stead when he takes on his new responsibilities. Both Judge Ciancia and Judge Williams bring great skill and dedication to their new positions."

Under the New Jersey Constitution (Article VI, Section VII, Chap. 1), the Chief Justice is the "administrative head of all the courts in the State." Under the same constitutional provision, the Chief Justice has the power to appoint an Administrative Director of the Courts. Court rules provide that any full-time judge appointed to the post be known as the Acting Administrative Director.

The Chief Justice delegates to the Administrative Director general responsibility for overseeing the operation and management of the state’s court system. The Judiciary has more than 8,500 employees statewide and a budget of $383 million for the current fiscal year. Approximately 1 million cases are filed in the Superior Court each year. The Administrative Office of Courts also has administrative oversight for the State’s municipal courts, in which another 5 million cases are filed annually.

Judge Williams, 57, a native of Atlantic City, has served as Assignment Judge -- the chief administrative judge of a vicinage (court district) -- since 1985. From 1983 to 1985, he was Presiding Judge of the Family Division in the Atlantic and Cape May Vicinage. He became a Superior Court Judge in 1981. From 1972 to 1981, he served as Atlantic County prosecutor. From 1967 to 1972, he was in private practice with the Atlantic City firm of Cole, Koury, Cole & Tighe. He began his legal career as a law clerk to New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Vincent S. Haneman. Judge Williams is a 1966 graduate of the University of Virginia Law School. He received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University in 1963.

In addition to his work on the bench and as Assignment Judge, Judge Williams has served the Judiciary in a number of key capacities. He is a member of the Judiciary Budget and Planning Committee and the Judiciary Labor Relations Committee. He was, among other posts, chair of the Conference of Assignment Judges (1997-98), a member of the Judiciary Strategic Planning Committee (1995-98), and a member of the Supreme Court Committee on Efficiency II (1995-96). Before becoming a judge, he served, among other capacities, as president of the Atlantic County Bar Association (1979-80), president of the County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey (1975-76), president of the Family Service Association of Atlantic County (1975-76), and president of Cape-Atlantic Legal Services (1970).

He and his wife, Tanna, live in Linwood. They have a daughter, Kristen, and a son, Daniel.

Judge Ciancia, 54, is a 1966 graduate of Rider College. He received his law degree from Rutgers University School of Law, Newark, in 1969. From May 1974 to February 1982, he was director of the Central Appellate Research Staff of the Appellate Division. In February 1982, he joined the Department of Law and Public Safety as Assistant Attorney General in charge of civil appeals in the Division of Law, leaving to assume a Superior Court judgeship in February 1989. He was assigned to Camden County. In March 1994, Judge Ciancia left the judiciary to serve as First Assistant Attorney General of the State of New Jersey. In July 1996, he became Administrative Director of the Courts. A year later he was again appointed to the bench and assigned to the Appellate Division. He took his oath of office in October 1997.

Judge Ciancia and his wife, Mary Anne, live in Stockton. They have a son, James.

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