A Remembrance of Stephen F. Williams

This past August Stephen F. Williams, one of the most distinguished jurists ever to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, died of Covid-related causes. (My earlier tribute appears here.) Judge Douglas Ginsburg and I decided to organize a remembrance event for Judge Williams, held at the Antonin Scalia Law School campus on October 9 under a stringent safety protocol. The speakers included fellow judges of Steve’s; friends and professional colleagues; former law clerks; and Steve’s youngest son, Nick. Some of the speakers, including Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., then-still Chief Judge Merrick Garland, and Nick, appeared remotely. Others, including Doug Ginsburg (who served with Steve for an amazing thirty-four years on the bench) and yours truly, appeared in person—mercifully, maskless for the duration of their remarks. 

A video of the event appears here (as well as below), and if I may say so myself, it’s a small but worthy tribute. Although Doug and I did not hand out speaking assignments, what emerges is a well-rounded picture of the man: expositor of enduring principles of administrative law; beloved colleague; dedicated friend of liberty; self-taught expert on the sad story of liberalism in Russia (see also here); dearly missed mentor and father.

And something else emerges—something much more important: the deep, generous affection Steve Williams had for those around him, and the beneficiaries’ gratitude and slightly disbelieving sense of loss at his passing. “We’ve all lost a great friend,” Judge Ginsburg concludes the proceedings. Indeed, we have.