James R. Williams is the County Counsel for the County of Santa Clara. As County Counsel, James oversees all aspects of the Office and serves as the chief legal advisor to the Board of Supervisors, the County Executive, the Civil Grand Jury, and all County elected officials and department heads. He oversees all litigation brought by the County and the defense of all litigation filed against the County, its officers, and its employees. The Office has a dedicated staff of over 200, including more than 100 attorneys. James became Acting County Counsel on August 1, 2016, and he was appointed permanently by the Board of Supervisors on October 17, 2016.
James began his career with the County in 2010 as a Social Justice & Impact Litigation Fellow, and later a Deputy County Counsel, in the Office of the County Counsel. Among other work, he helped lead the County’s successful litigation strategy on redevelopment dissolution. James delivered the oral argument before the California Supreme Court on behalf of the County in California Redevelopment Association v. Matosantos, where the County’s successful argument resulted in the dissolution of the state’s more than 400 redevelopment agencies on February 1, 2012. Redevelopment dissolution has returned billions of dollars each year to local schools, counties, and for critical public safety services.
James later served as Special Assistant to the County Executive and, in January 2013, he was appointed Deputy County Executive. As Deputy County Executive, James provided oversight and executive leadership management of several County departments, including Procurement, County Fire, 9-1-1 County Communications, and Risk Management. He was also responsible for policy oversight for over $2.5 billion in contracting annually. James supervised several functions in the County Executive’s Office, including the Office of Emergency Services, the Office of Countywide Contracting Management, Redevelopment Dissolution, and the Bail and Release Project.
James received his J.D. from Stanford Law School. He graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University, with an A.B. from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. James has received numerous honors, including the M. Taylor Pyne Honor Prize, Princeton University’s highest undergraduate distinction; he is a Harry S. Truman Scholar and Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow.