A quarter of a century of legal experience to her credit, Peoria criminal defense attorney Maureen Williams has earned a reputation as a tireless advocate who arrives in court prepared to argue on her client’s behalf. Outside the courtroom, Williams’ dedication doesn’t flag. She’s never too busy to answer her clients’ questions and return their phone calls, even meet with them for a question/answer session.
“My clients are often worried and scared,” says Williams. “I’m happy when they call, because I know I can alleviate some of their stress. I’m here to make the process less painful.”
A Peoria native, Williams obtained an accounting degree from Creighton University in 1985 and then worked toward becoming a certified public accountant while employed by accounting firms in Peoria and Kansas City.
In 1988, Williams enrolled in the Hamline University School of Law, in St. Paul, Minn. At the same time, she worked for prestigious accounting firm Arthur Andersen & Co. Despite having to juggle the demands of law school and her work, she still made the dean’s list and received the American Jurisprudence Award in Constitutional Law II, given to the student who scores the highest grade in class.
On entering law school, Williams envisioned a return to the accounting field after graduation. But then, just before her third year of law school, she began a 10-month stint as a law clerk in the Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office, focusing on constitutional law and related issues, and her focus shifted. Williams also held a law clerk internship with Judge Allen Oleisky, 4th Judicial District in Minneapolis.
After graduation, Williams was hired as a law clerk for the 5th Judicial District of Minnesota in Mankato. As a clerk, Williams was responsible for conducting legal research, writing and drafting of orders and memoranda, findings of fact and conclusions of law.
“I realized then that the criminal cases were the ones I liked working on the most,” says Williams. “I couldn’t understand why every attorney wasn’t leaping to practice criminal law. That’s when I decided that I wanted to specialize in criminal defense and appeals. I feel fortunate that I have found my calling.”
Williams launched a private solo practice in 1993 in Minneapolis, devoted to the practice of criminal defense, DUIs, and criminal appeals. She soon won an important Minnesota Supreme Court victory on behalf of professional boxer Jack Basting. Basting had been convicted of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon after punching his ex-wife’s boyfriend. The trial court had concluded that because Basting was a boxer his fist was a dangerous weapon. Williams challenged the conviction and won. In State of Minnesota v. Basting , the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that Basting’s experience as a boxer, in and of itself, did not render his fists dangerous weapons.
Williams credits Minneapolis lawyers for her training in DUI law. “The Minneapolis attorneys I knew treated DUIs like a sport. They tried everything, and routinely won the civil cases that allowed their clients to have their licenses reinstated following a DUI charge, in addition to getting great results in the traffic courts. I learned from the best and was taken aback when I came to Peoria and saw that many lawyers did not even attempt to dismantle the summary suspensions.” Williams won her very first summary suspension challenge in Illinois in 2009, which then led to her client’s DUI charge being reduced to a speeding charge.
Williams had left Minnesota in 2004, even though she had an established practice in Minneapolis. She longed to return to Peoria, her home town. “I have very strong family ties to the area, and I always wanted to move back,” she explains. In 2004, Williams relocated her practice in Peoria, while still maintaining her Minnesota law license since 1991. She became licensed in Illinois in 2005. She continues to represent clients in criminal trials and criminal appeals. “I love practicing criminal defense, and really enjoy making a difference for my clients. I strive to treat each client as if he or she is my only client. I believe each client can sense it,” Williams says.
Attorney Maureen Williams currently serves on the board of Peoria Symphony Guild, acting as vice-president. She also routinely volunteers her time rocking babies at a local hospital. She previously served on the board of Prairie State Legal Services, and is also a member of the Peoria County Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, and Illinois Appellate Lawyers Association. In July 2009, she was nominated for the McAndrews Pro Bono Award for her work in securing in Peoria the opportunity for indigent expungement petitioners to request a waiver of court filing fees.
Areas of Practice:
70% Criminal Defense
30% Postconviction work; Criminal Appeals
U.S. District Court Central District of Illinois, 2005
Hamline University School of Law, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1991
Honors: American Jurisprudence Award Spring 1990
Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska, 1985
Major: Accounting (CPA Designation in 1988)
Minnesota v. Basting, Minnesota S. Ct. (C5-96-493 1997)
Minnesota v. Bragg, Minnesota S. Ct. (C1-97-2039 1998)
Illinois v. Pamela Slater, Illinois S. Ct. (886 NE 2d. 986 2008)
Honors and Awards:
American Jurisprudence Award – Constitutional Law, 1990
Professional Associations and Memberships:
Illinois State Bar Association
Prairie State Legal Services Board, 2008 – 2012
Appellate Lawyers Association, 2005 – Present
Illinois Association Criminal Defense Attorneys – Present Member
Peoria County Bar Association, 2004 – Present
Past Employment Positions:
State of Minnesota 5th Judicial District, Law Clerk, 1992 – 1993
Minneapolis City Attorneys Office, Law Clerk, 1990 – 1991
Arthur Anderson, St. Paul, Minnesota, Staff, 1988 – 1990
Woodward & Co., Kansas City, Missouri, Staff Accountant, 1986 – 1988
Ginoli & Co., Peoria, Illinois, Staff Accountant, 1985 – 1986
Pro Bono Activities:
Prairie State Legal Services Volunteer, 2005 – Present
OSF Hospital Volunteer, 2007 – Present
Peoria Symphony Guild, vice-president.