In such divided times, we shouldn't be surprised that the Supreme Court embraces passive virtues in order to guard their authority.
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.