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Longtime Federal Appeals Judge in D.C. Dies of COVID-19 at 83
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Judge Stephen F. Williams, D.C. Circuit federal judge for more than three decades, passed away Friday at the age of 83 due to complications from COVID-19, the Washington Post reports.

The highly respected jurist who was widely considered a “giant” in regulatory and economic law had been hospitalized since May, after contracting the novel coronavirus.

Williams was nominated to the federal bench in 1986 by Ronald Reagan. He reached senior status in 2001 but continued to handle a full caseload until he was 80 and heard cases until earlier this year.


Judge Williams presided over a host of significant legal cases that touched on gun control, energy deregulation, the powers of independent prosecutors, and the Civil Rights Act as reported by the Washington Post.

Judge Wiliams was among the judges who heard Microsoft’s antitrust appeal, finding that the software giant had abused its Windows monopoly but reversing a lower court’s order to break up the company. He was a fierce advocate of the philosophy that free markets create free societies.

The jurist was known for his down-to-earth style, wearing casual dress off the bench, cycling to the courthouse, and his brown-bagged vegetarian lunches. A father of five children, Williams had a passion for studying pre-revolutionary Russian history that resulted in two books about the subject.

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Among colleagues, Williams was known for consuming almost every legal opinion circulating on a legal question before the court and being unfailingly polite and solicitous toward clerks and staff.

“He had an uncommon love of ideas, an extraordinarily broad-ranging intellectual curiosity, an infectiously good-spirited demeanor, and a joyful sense of humor,” Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan said in a written statement. “We have been immeasurably enriched by the privilege of serving with him.”

“Truthfully, it breaks my heart. He was my closest colleague. He was my friend. We would have lunch occasionally and talk about everything in the world,” Judge Laurence H. Silberman said Saturday in an interview. “We teased each other because he thought I was too sympathetic to trade unions, and I thought he was too sympathetic to animals.”

Silberman said Williams was a brilliant scholar and jurist, and he took good care of himself. But Silberman worried about his daily commute on a bicycle through the streets of D.C.

“I used to constantly try to persuade him to stop riding his bike to court,” Silberman said. But he said Williams was undeterred by advancing age and mishaps that sometimes resulted in injury.

Another colleague on the bench, Judge Merrick B. Garland, called him “the kindest of colleagues, eager to engage in vigorous intellectual debate in the most open-minded and non-personal way.”

“He was at heart the professor he had been before taking the bench,” Garland said in an email, “and it is no surprise that many of his superb law clerks have gone on to become professors themselves.”



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