The Volokh Conspiracy

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Administrative Law

Judge Stephen F. Williams, R.I.P.

The sad passing of a jurist and teacher.


I was saddened to learn the Honorable Stephen F. Williams died last night, reportedly due to Covid-19. He was 83.

Judge Williams was well known to those who focus on administrative law. He was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. Prior to that, he had worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, and spent 17 years as a professor at the University of Colorado School of Law, where he specialized in energy law. Although he took senior status on the D.C. Circuit in 2001, he continued to hear cases.

I first got to know Judge Williams when I was working in Washington, D.C. He had taken an interest in an article I had written for Regulation about rent-seeking in environmental law and asked me to join him for lunch at the National Gallery. I had read some of his work, and some of his opinions, and had seen him on a few panels, but this was likely the first time we had actually met in person. (Put another way, before this lunch I certainly knew who he was, but there was no reason he would know who I was.) From that point forward, we would talk occasionally at various events, and while I was in law school we discussed the possibility of my clerking on the D.C. Circuit.

A statement issued by the court remembers Judge WIlliams for his "uncommon love of ideas, an extraordinarily broad-ranging intellectual curiosity, an infectiously good-spirited demeanor, and a joyful sense of humor." This captures his essence quite well. He was an important jurist, a curious and independent thinker, and a kind man. He will be missed.

UPDATE: I have a follow-up post on Judge Williams here.