A reminiscence of Stephen F. Williams

Stephen F. Williams, one of the most respected lawyers to ever serve on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, died last August of Covid reasons. (My previous tribute appears here.) Judge Douglas Ginsburg and I decided to organize a memorial service for Judge Williams, which was held on October 9th on the Antonin Scalia Law School campus under strict security protocol. Speakers included judges from Steve; Friends and colleagues; former court clerk; and Steve’s youngest son Nick. Some of the speakers, including Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., then Chief Judge Merrick Garland and Nick, appeared from afar. Others, including Doug Ginsburg (who served on the bench with Steve for an astonishing thirty-four years) and yours really, appeared in person – graciously maskless for the duration of their presentation.

A video of the event appears here (as well as below), and if I may say it myself, it’s a small but worthy tribute. Although Doug and I did not assign any lecture assignments, the picture of the man is rounded: exponent of the enduring principles of administrative law; beloved colleague; committed friend of freedom; Autodidact for the sad history of liberalism in Russia (see also here); very missing mentor and father.

And something else emerges – something far more important: the deep, generous affection Steve Williams had for his fellow human beings, and the gratitude and slightly disbelieving feeling of the beneficiaries at his death. “We have all lost a great friend,” concluded Judge Ginsburg. Indeed we have.

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