Stephen F. Williams

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Stephen Williams
Senior Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
In office
September 30, 2001 – August 7, 2020
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
In office
June 16, 1986 – September 30, 2001
Appointed byRonald Reagan
Preceded byMalcolm Richard Wilkey
Succeeded byJanice Rogers Brown
Personal details
Stephen Fain Williams

(1936-09-23)September 23, 1936
New York City, New York
DiedAugust 7, 2020(2020-08-07) (aged 83)[1]
EducationYale University (B.A.)
Harvard Law School (J.D.)

Stephen Fain Williams (September 23, 1936 – August 7, 2020) was a Senior United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Early life and career[edit]

Born in New York City, New York, he was the son of prominent lawyer C. Dickerman Williams. He received a Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude in 1958 from Yale University, where he was a member of the Manuscript Society. He then received a Juris Doctor magna cum laude in 1961 from Harvard Law School. He was in the United States Army Reserve as a Private E-2 from 1961 to 1962. He engaged in private practice from 1962 to 1966 and became an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York in 1966. From 1969 to his appointment to the bench, he taught at the University of Colorado School of Law. During this time, he also served as a Visiting Professor of Law at UCLA, University of Chicago Law School, and Southern Methodist University and he was a consultant to the Administrative Conference of the United States and the Federal Trade Commission.

Federal judicial service[edit]

Williams was nominated by President Ronald Reagan on February 19, 1986, to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated by Judge Malcolm R. Wilkey. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on June 13, 1986, and received commission on June 16, 1986. He assumed senior status on September 30, 2001.[2]

In March 2017, Williams questioned if the government could constitutionally keep all prisoner court filings secret when the court, unanimous in judgment but in divided opinions, found that the press could not access classified video of Jihad Ahmed Mustafa Dhiab being force fed during the Guantanamo Bay hunger strikes.[3][4]


Williams was the author of numerous books and scholarly articles. His last work was Liberal Reform in an Illiberal Regime, 1906–1915: The Creation of Private Property in Russia, a book described by former acting Prime Minister of Russia Yegor Gaidar as "absolutely splendid".

Here are some of his other works:

  • The Natural Gas Revolution of 1985, 1985
  • Cases on Oil and Gas Law (With R. Maxwell, P. Martin and B. Kramer), 6th ed., 1992
  • Subjectivity, Expression & Privacy: Problems of Aesthetic Regulation, 62 Minnesota Law Review 1, 1977
  • Running Out: The Problem of Exhaustible Resources, 7 Journal of Legal Studies 165, 1978
  • Solar 'Access' and Property Rights: A Maverick Analysis, 11 Connecticut Law Review 430, 1979
  • Implied Covenants for Development and Exploration in Oil and Gas Leases - The Determination of Profitability, 27 Kansas Law Review 443, 1979
  • The Static Conception of the Common Law: A Comment, 9 Journal of Legal Studies 277, 1980
  • Getting Downtown - Relief of Highway Congestion Through Pricing, Regulation, p. 45, March/April, 1981
  • Implied Covenants in Oil and Gas Leases: Some General Principles, 29 Kansas Law Review 153, 1981
  • An Energy Policy Perspective on Solar Hot Water Equipment Mandates, 1 UCLA Journal on Environmental Law and Policy 135, 1981
  • 'Liberty' In the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments: The Intentions of the Framers, 53 Colorado Law Review 117, 1981
  • Severance Taxes: The Supreme Court's Role in Preserving a National Common Market for Energy Supplies, 53 Colorado Law Review 281, 1982
  • Liberty and Property: The Problem of Government Benefits, 12 Journal of Legal Studies 3, 1983
  • The Requirement of Beneficial Use as a Cause of Waste in Water Resource Development, 23 Natural Resource Journal 7, 1983
  • Energy Policy in the Cold Light of Morning, 61 Texas Law Review 571, 1983
  • Free Trade in Water Resources: Sporhase v. Nebraska ex rel. Douglas, 2 S. Ct. Economic Review 89, 1984
  • Implied Covenants' Threat to the Value of Oil and Gas Reserves, 36 Institute on Oil and Gas Law and Taxation, Chapter 3, 1985
  • Federal Preemption of State Conservation Laws After the Natural Gas Policy Act: A Preliminary Look, 56 Colorado Law Review 521, 1985
  • The Proposed Sea-Change in Natural Gas Regulation, 6 Energy Law Journal 233, 1985
  • The Law of Prior Appropriation: Possible Lessons for Hawaii 25 Natural Resource Journal 911, 1985
  • The Legal Integration of Energy Markets (With Terence Daintith) Vol. 5 of Integration Through Law: Europe and the American Federal Experience, 1987
  • Second Best: The Soft Underbelly of Deterrence Theory in Tort, 106 Harvard Law Review 932, 1993
  • Hybrid Rulemaking, Under the Administrative Procedure Act: A Legal and Empirical Analysis, 42 University of Chicago Law Review 401, 1975
  • Panel: Culpability, Restitution, and the Environment: The Vitality of Common Law Rules 21 Ecology Law Quarterly, 559, 1994
  • Unconstitutional Conditions Through a Libertarian Prism Public Interest Law Review, 159, 1994
  • Legal Versus Non-Legal Theory 17 Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, 79, Winter, 1997
  • Court-Gazing: Reviews of David C. Savage, Turning Right: The Making of the REhnquist Supreme Court, and H.W. Perry, Jr., Deciding to Decide: Agenda Setting in the United States Supreme Court, 91 Michigan Law Review, 1158, 1993
  • The Roots of Deference (Review of Christopher F. Edley, Jr., Administrative Law: Rethinking Judicial Control of Bureaucracy) 100 Yale Law Journal 1103, 1991
  • Background Norms in the Regulatory State, (Review of Cass R. Sunstein, After the Rights Revolution: Reconceiving the Regulatory State) 58 University of Chicago Law Review 419, 1991
  • Fingers in the Pie (Review of Jeremy Rabkin, Judicial Compulsions: How Public Law Distorts Public Policy) 68 Texas Law Review 1303, 1990
  • Review of Morton Horwitz, The Transformation of American Law, 25 UCLA Law Review 1187, 1978
  • Review of Richard A. Posner, Economic Analysis of Law, 45 University of Colorado Law Review 437-53, 1974
  • Fixing the Rate of Return After Duquesne, 8 Yale Journal on Reg. 159, 1991
  • Pollution Control: Taxes v. Regulation (International Institute for Economic Research, Original Paper 23), August, 1979
  • Optimizing Water Use: The Return Flow Issue, 44 University of Colorado Law Review 301, 1973
  • Risk Regulation and Its hazards: Review of Stephen Breyer, Breaking the Vicious Circle, 93 Mich. L. Rev. 1498, 1995
  • Deregulatory Takings and Breach of the Regulatory Contract: A Comment 71 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 1000, 1996


Williams was diagnosed with COVID-19 in June 2020. He was admitted to Sibley Memorial Hospital and put on a ventilator. On August 7, 2020, after about two months in the hospital, he died from complications as a result of COVID-19.[5]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Bliss, M.L.; Kennedy, R.A.; Irvine, D.R. (2000). The American Bench. Forster-Long. ISSN 0160-2578. Retrieved 2015-05-15.
  3. ^ Note, Recent Case: D.C. Circuit Holds Press Cannot Unseal Classified Videos of Guantanamo Bay Detainee, 131 Harv. L. Rev. 902 (2018).
  4. ^ Dhiab v. Trump, 852 F.3d 1087 (D.C. Cir. 2017).
  5. ^


External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Malcolm Richard Wilkey
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
Succeeded by
Janice Rogers Brown