SC native, federal judge retires after Alzheimer's diagnosis

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The chief judge of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals is stepping down because she has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease.

In a statement released Thursday by her office in Orangeburg, Judge Karen Williams says she can still perform her duties, but worried the nature of the disease would cause her future decisions to come into question.

Williams is from Orangeburg and has served on the appellate court since 1992, when she was appointed by then President George Bush, Sr.

"Judge Williams is the epitome of a well-reasoned jurist," said Senator Graham. "She understands the difference between upholding the law and a judge making law."

At one point in time, Williams had been considered to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

"Judge Williams enjoyed tremendous respect from her judicial colleagues, the lawyers who appeared before her, and the public at large," Graham said. "Judge Williams is a role model for a jurist and citizen. We will be praying for her and her family in the days ahead."

Her departure leaves five openings on the 15-judge court, which covers South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia.

Williams was the first female judge in the 4th Circuit, widely considered one of the most conservative courts.

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