UALR and Bowen Law School grad Judge Joyce Williams Warren was first appointed as a juvenile court judge in 1983 and has been an avid and passionate supporter of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (CASA) in her courtroom and in the community.
This past June Judge Warren was chosen to receive the National Judge of the Year recognition from CASA.
She holds each and every CASA volunteer in highest regard and visibly places great value on their testimony and the court reports they submit. “It is a pleasure to work with someone with the knowledge, wisdom and servant’s heart Judge Warren displays. She is a hero in my eyes,” said Julian Holloway, director, Arkansas State CASA Association.
Judge Warren was the first black female judge in the Pulaski County system and the first in Arkansas. She has also authored “A Booklet for Parents, Guardians, and Custodians in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases” (2003), which has been translated into Spanish and has been widely distributed in Arkansas and other states. She has appeared in several training videos and other videos concerning juvenile and domestic relations law and related issues.
Joyce Elise Williams was born in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on October 25, 1949, one of two children of Albert Lewis Williams Jr. and Marian Eloise Longley Williams, both teachers. She attended Gibbs Elementary School and was one of ten black students who integrated West Side Junior High School in 1961. She graduated from Little Rock Central High School in 1967 and attended both Rockford College in Rockford Illinois, and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), where she received a BA in sociology and anthropology in 1971. She was the first black female graduate of what is now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law, completing her Juris Doctor degree in 1976. She also did graduate work at the Summer College for Juvenile and Family Court Judges at the University of Nevada at Reno and has attended Harvard University for continuing legal education courses through the American Academy of Judicial Education. In 2001, she earned a Diploma of Judicial Skills from the American Academy of Judicial Education.
She married James Medrick “Butch” Warren in 1972; they have three children.
In 1977, Warren became the first black law clerk for the Arkansas Supreme Court, serving Associate Justice Darrell Hickman. She was an assistant attorney general to Bill Clinton, then the state’s attorney general, from October 1977 to December 1978. As an administrative assistant to Governor Clinton from January to November 1979, she was a liaison to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) and numerous boards and commissions. From November 1979 to February 1981, she was legal advisor to the ADH. She then engaged in the private practice of law from March 1981 to January 1982. From then until December 1982, she was a staff attorney at Central Arkansas Legal Services.
Warren became the first black female judge in Arkansas when she was appointed as a juvenile court judge in January 1983 by county judge Don Venhaus. She was appointed by the Arkansas Supreme Court to the Arkansas State Board of Law Examiners in 1986, becoming the first black female appointee and the first black chairperson of the board. She served two three-year terms and an additional year on the board. In November 1990, Warren became the first African American ever elected to a state-level trial court judgeship in Arkansas. She was unopposed for that election, as well as the elections in November 1994, November 1998, May 2002, and May 2008. As of 2012, she serves as Tenth Division circuit judge in the Sixth Judicial District, which encompasses Pulaski and Perry counties, where she presides over juvenile and domestic relations cases.