Former Baltimore County District Judge Alexandra N. “Sandy” Williams died Nov. 9 of ovarian cancer at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. The Southland Hills resident was 64.
“Sandy was well-respected for her legal ability as any attorney or judge has ever been, and for her judicial demeanor. She tried cases before me and was an excellent attorney,” said retired Baltimore County Circuit Judge John F. Fader II. “She was a leader in the Maryland Judiciary, a tireless worker, and simply a wonderful human being.”
State Chief District Judge John Morrisey described Judge Williams as a "judge’s judge and someone I looked up to."
“Sandy was a great friend, jurist and just a really good person and a true leader,” Judge Morrisey said. “I came in 2005, and she was already a legend by then and then I became chief judge. She was smart, dynamic and could deal with everyone in a professional manner. She also had a great sense of humor, and was a great runner who talked all the time when we were running.”
Baltimore County Administrative Judge Kathleen Gallogly Cox is another longtime friend and colleague.
“I was a great fan of Sandy’s. She was such a great parent, friend and judge, and this is all so sad,” Judge Cox said. “I never had the pleasure of appearing before her, but knew her from the state’s attorney’s office and when our kids were young. I always admired how she could balance her career, family, marriage and complexities of her job as administrative judge, and did it seamlessly.”
The former Alexandra Nichols, daughter of Col. Frederick K. Nichols, a career Air Force officer, and his wife, Lillian P. Nichols, a registered nurse, was born at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and in the mid-1960s moved with her family to Phoenix in Baltimore County.
After graduating in 1974 from St. Paul’s School for Girls, where she was president of the Student Government Association, she earned a bachelor’s degree in 1978 from Denison University in Granville, Ohio, where she was a resident assistant.
While at Denison, she had an experience that profoundly altered her choice of a professional career. A young woman who had been sexually assaulted by a fellow student refused to report the assault despite every encouragement.
“The fear of public embarrassment and perception of apathy towards sexual assault victims that seemed prevalent at the time greatly angered her, and that anger impacted her decision to become a prosecutor,” her husband of 37 years, Dana O. Williams, a trial lawyer and partner in the Towson law firm of Heisler, Williams & Lazzaro LLC, wrote in a biographical profile of his wife.
Judge Williams received her law degree in 1981 from the University of Baltimore School of Law and while in law school worked as a law clerk in the Sex Offense and Child Abuse Unit of the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office for Dana Marx Levitz, who later became a judge of the Baltimore County Circuit Court. To accommodate her work schedule, she switched from day to night school, which added a year to her law school studies.
After graduating from law school and becoming a trial attorney, she continued working in the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office.
“While at that office she progressed from trial assistant to team captain to Chief of the District Court Division,” her husband wrote. “She tried numerous high-profile felony cases including death penalty cases that had been removed to the Eastern Shore. As chief of the Eastern Court Division, Sandy was sensitive to the needs of victims of domestic violence and was co-organizer for what would ultimately become the Family Violence Unit in that office.”
Once appointed to the Baltimore County District Court in 1994 by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Judge Williams quickly established herself as a respected member of the bench while demonstrating leadership qualities that resulted in her being named administrative judge in 2002 of the Baltimore County District Court by Maryland District Court Chief Judge James N. Vaughn.
Judge Williams was the first woman to hold that post in Baltimore County District Court history, and she remained in that position until retiring in 2016. After retirement she continued to sit regularly as a visiting judge throughout the state.
“When you’re an administrative judge in a county as large as Baltimore County, it’s a lot of responsibility, and she did it with style and grace,” Judge Morrisey said. “It was truly a privilege and honor to serve with Sandy.”
“In her courtroom, she was fair, listened to everyone and was courteous and patient,” Judge Cox said.
Judge Williams also enjoyed mentoring young trial attorneys and continued doing so until her death, her husband said.
She was an active member of several professional organizations, including the Maryland State Bar Association, serving on its board of governors from 2013 to 2015, and a member of the Baltimore County Bar Association from 1981 until her death.
From 1994 to 1996, she participated in the Judicial Education Committee and the Committee on Criminal and Motor Vehicle Matters from 1997 to 2015. She was a member from 2002 to 2015 of the Administrative Judges Committee, District Court of Maryland.
She was also a member of the Judicial Council from 2003 to 2005 and vice-chairperson of the Legislative Committee from 2008 to 2016 of the Maryland Judicial Conference, where she served as a member of its Criminal Law and Procedure Committee from 2010 to 2012.
“Sandy loved the opportunity to teach newly appointed judges regarding domestic violence related issues and working on behalf of the judiciary concerning matters of interest to the legislature,” her husband wrote.
“They were a very successful husband-and-wife team, she as an administrative judge and a leader of the Maryland Bar, and he as a trial attorney and law firm partner,” Judge Fader said. “It was just a wonderful marriage.”
Judge Williams was diagnosed with the cancer that claimed her life three years ago, her husband said.
Judge Williams enjoyed running, skiing in Colorado, spending family summer vacations in Maine and collecting sea glass. She liked being physically active in almost all outdoor activities but drew a line at camping.
“She’d say, ‘I am not sleeping in a tent and require indoor plumbing,' ” her husband said.
The couple were both members of Towson Presbyterian Church.
Services are private, and because of the coronavirus pandemic, plans for a celebration-of-life gathering are incomplete.
In addition to her husband, she is survived by her son, Douglas Williams of Towson; a daughter, Sarah Williams of Washington; two brothers, F. Kenneth Nichols Jr. of Phoenix in Baltimore County, and Dr. Scott F. Nichols of Naples, Florida; and several nephews and a niece.