We have long been admonished that we ought not to judge books by their covers. If indeed more proof were required to validate the truism, Lorraine Williams provides far more than is necessary. Who would have thought this quiet—I almost said shy—CDC girl would’ve achieved so much so quickly, and far beyond the shores of this 238 square mile rock we call Helen?
Lorraine would be the first to admit her early years growing up in the CDC were unremarkable. Raised in a strict Catholic household with her two siblings—an older sister and a younger brother—it was hardly surprising she would have attended the Ave Maria Infant and Primary Schools, both administered by the Catholic Church. She would later gain admission to the prestigious St. Joseph’s Convent and thereafter the newly established A-Level College at Morne Fortune.
Contrary to public perception that a legal career was her first love, Lorraine’s initial foray into the world of work was as a banker. It was while at the bank that her quest for excellence would trigger the idea of becoming a lawyer. Banking’s loss would be the legal profession’s gain!
She earned a law degree at Cave Hill Campus in Barbados, where she would meet her future husband. She graduated with second class honours and subsequently studied for and sat the Bar exams at the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad and Tobago. If she thought her law degree was an immediate pathway to success, Lorraine would be brought back to the reality of life in Saint Lucia.
Life as a lawyer in Saint Lucia was no easy task if you were not employed with one of the established firms. Though she was employed at McNamara and Co, Lorraine felt sure she would do well to work in a larger jurisdiction. She journeyed to Guyana where she joined her university sweetheart Basil Williams. Within a short time she gained employment with one of Guyana’s leading law firms and established herself as one of the profession’s rising stars.
Nevertheless, Lorraine’s love for her native island would soon overcome all else. It wasn’t long before she returned to Saint Lucia where she joined the law firm headed by Kenneth Monplaisir QC. Within a few years she would be offered the position of magistrate. Such was the quality of her decisions that she was soon made Senior Magistrate. Lorraine’s impartiality on the bench would manifest itself in a case involving her long-standing friend Rick Wayne. Ironically, Wayne was represented by current House Speaker Peter Foster who was himself admitted to the local bar on the very same day as Ms. Williams. He was in effect a very close friend.
The case involved the theft of Mr. Wayne’s property from his Coubaril residence and as far as Wayne and his attorney were concerned, theirs was an airtight case where the perpetrator would surely be found guilty. Williams had other ideas, however, for having thoroughly and meticulously perused the file before her she ruled that the defendant had no case to answer, based on the statute of limitations.
That decision was widely spoken about by her peers with some even calling for her elevation to the judgeship. If Lorraine was herself of that view, Saint Lucia’s then most important individual had other ideas. Far bigger ones!
Following his victory at the 1992 polls, Prime Minister John Compton offered the young magistrate the position of Attorney General and Minister for Legal Affairs. Never one to rush in where angels feared to tread, Williams requested time to consider the offer and following extensive discussions with her family, she responded in the affirmative. The portfolio of Women’s Affairs was added shortly after and thus began one of the most storied tenures of that portfolio. It was a period of unprecedented legislation relating to the rights of women and Williams created history by becoming the first person to pilot a bill in both Houses of Parliament: the Family Court Act.
Though she had been appointed Attorney General under a UWP administration, such was Williams’ impartiality that the Labour Party administration which came into office in 1997 would, a few years later, nominate her to the post of OECS High Commissioner to Canada where she served with distinction for several years. Saint Lucians in Canada still speak with fondness about her tenure.
The wider world would soon beckon and she was offered the position of assistant director general of the World Food Organisation, headquartered in Italy, becoming the first Saint Lucian to be so appointed. By the completion of her tenure at that institution she had risen to the position of deputy director.
Two years ago Lorraine returned home and was appointed acting judge of the OECS Supreme Court and assigned to Nevis. In her short time in the jurisdiction the quality of her judgements has earned her the highest commendations from the legal fraternity there. Her sentencing of a rapist to a long prison term and, more recently,her decision in a landmark libel case have gathered her praise and respect throughout the regional judicial community.
It was hardly a surprise announcement when last Lorraine Williams received word from the Chief Justice of the OECS Supreme Court that her acting appointment had been revoked and that she had been appointed substantively to the post.
Congratulations, Justice Williams!