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MSS 2011-01

Papers of Judge Richard L. Williams


Judicial papers (1979-2011) from Williams' chamber files. Chamber manuals, jury instructions, case files, correspondence, memoranda, digital files, opinions, calendars, scrapbooks.

1979-2011 [Inclusive]
34 Linear Feet (85 archival boxes, plus some oversized items)

Scope & Contents

The Papers of Judge Richard L. Williams (85 archival boxes, 34 linear ft.) were donated to the Law School in December of 2011. The documents portray his tenure as a Judge in the Eastern District of Virginia. There are also some personal documents that give us a glance of his personal life.

The papers maintained their original organization:

Chambers Manuals and Jury Instructions – Sample documents used in Judge Williams' chambers.

Chrono Files – 1988–2010: We received 6 cartons (became 5 cartons after weeding duplicates and some administrative stuff) of chronological files dated 1988-2011. These documents were found in chronological order but completely mixed. Personal files, clerks' memos, memoranda from the Justice Department, opinions, orders, etc. Correspondence, both professional and personal, newspaper clippings, prisoners' correspondence, documents from the judicial, etc. Researchers will be able to read many important judicial topics, as well as see the day-to-day management of Judge Williams’ chambers, and other not so professional, but important, matters. After 1993, these files seemed to be better organized and there are fewer personal documents.

Sitting with the 4ths: Files related to Judge Williams sitting with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, covering most of his years on the bench. These files are organized chronologically.

Holding Court Out of Town: Memoranda and other files related to cases heard by Judge Williams outside the Eastern District of Virginia EDVA.

Miscellaneous files: As its title implies, these files are a mixture of documents, organized in alphabetical order.

Old LC Notes: Digital files containing bench memoranda from Judge Williams' law clerks, and public documents about his cases, covering the years 1981-1992. Many of these files are copies of documents in the official record, such as opinions and orders. Please see: Old LC Notes list in ….


Memorabilia – scrapbooks

Collection Description

    Biographical / Historical

    Richard Leroy Williams was born in Morrisville, Fauquier County, Virginia, 6 April 1923. After finishing high school, he entered the Army Signal Corps, where he remained from September 1940 to 1945. As a signalman, Mr. Williams was at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, when it was attacked by Japan, plunging the U.S. into World War II. After the war, he attended the University of Virginia on the G. I. Bill and graduated with a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1951.

    In 1951, Williams started as an associate in the Richmond firm of Parrish, Butcher & Parrish. In 1955, he cofounded the law firm of Battle, Neal, Harris, Minor & Williams that merged with McGuire, Woods, King, Davis & Patterson to form McGuire Woods & Battle in 1966. From April 1972 to July 1976, he served as Judge to the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond.

    After resigning his judgeship, he went back to practice with his old firm of McGuire, Woods & Battle (1976-1980). He taught a trial practice seminar at the University of Virginia School of Law from 1973-1976. As a trial lawyer, his clients included Westinghouse, General Electric, and Aetna.

    In 1979, he was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, and confirmed by the Senate in September of 1980. He assumed senior status on May 1, 1992, but continued to work tirelessly almost until his death on February 19, 2011. Judge Williams sat frequently in other districts of Virginia, and with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. He was an efficient judge and liked his court to be run that way. He was impatient with attorneys that were not straight and forthcoming, and was invited to many courts to teach how to expedite their logs.

    Judge Williams presided over many important cases. In 1982, Judge Williams sentenced former CIA agent Edwin Wilson to 15 years in prison and a $200,000 fine for smuggling arms to Lybian agents overseas. [See: Edwin P. Wilson v. U.S., No. 1:82CR212, box 73]

    In 1986, he presided over the case of the <em>United States v. Richard Craig Smith</em>, No. 87-62-R [see: mss2011-1_lcnotes_447]. Smith, a former Army intelligence officer, was accused of espionage and conspiracy.

    In 1986, in <em>Akzo N.V. v. E. I. DuPont de Nemours</em>, No. 85-0459-R (See: mss2011-1_lcnotes_317), he ruled in favor of DuPont in a dispute over a patent of Kevlar fiber used in bulletproof vests, arguing that the patent granted to Akzo was invalid because “knowledge on how to produce the fiber was publicly available”.

    In 1989, he presided over the trial of three Teledyne Electronics executives charged with conspiracy, bribery, and wire fraud in connection with the “Ill Wind” defense procurement fraud investigation.

    In 1991, Eric M. Freedlander, a prominent Richmond mortgage lender, was sentenced to nine years in prison after he was found guilty of selling loans to financial institutions without disclosing that they were delinquent. Judge Williams refused Freedlander’s pleas for leniency, noting that two banks had failed and many investors lost their life savings as a result of the “extensive criminal scheme.”

    Williams ruled unconstitutional the Bush Administration’s plan to carry out on-the-spot evictions of suspected drug users and sellers from public housing developments around the country. Williams cited the “constitutional guarantee of due process in requiring that except in ‘extraordinary circumstances; drug related evictions from public housing be preceded by notice and a hearing. The mere use or possession of narcotics would not in every case constitute an ‘extraordinary situation’.”

    In 2002, Judge Williams found prosecutorial misconduct in the dramatic murder trial in Powhatan County of Beverly Monroe for the alleged 1992 shooting death of her lover, Roger de la Burde, a millionaire land speculator and art collector who claimed to be a French count.

    In 2003, Judge Williams ruled “unconstitutional” Virginia’s ban on Partial-Birth Abortion, blocking the law the day it was supposed to take effect in July 2003. He stated the law violated privacy rights and failed to make an exception for the health of the woman. Six months later, he declared the law unconstitutional.

    In 2009, Judge Williams ruled that Virginia had violated the voting rights of military personnel and other Americans living overseas by failing to mail absentee ballots in sufficient time for them to be counted in the previous year's presidential election.

    He was member of the Richmond Bar Association, the Virginia Bar Association, and American College of Trial Lawyers.

    Judge Williams loved to hunt, fish, and garden. He was an outdoors man who loved his dog, wildflowers, birding, and be with his family and friends in Highland County. He was admired by his “formers,” as he called his law clerks, and by his colleagues in the court.

    Judge Williams died on February 19, 2011.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    These papers were donated to the Law Library by Richard Gregory Williams (son) as trustee under the will of Richard L. Williams in December of 2011

seriesBench Books, Chambers Manuals and Jury Instructions
seriesChronological Files (1988-2010)
seriesMiscellaneous Files (1981-2011)
seriesSitting with the Fourths
seriesHolding Court Out of Town
itemMemorabilia: Happy 75th Birthday Scrapbook, April 6, 1998; Happy 80th Scrapbook; Happy 85th Birthday Scrapbook, 1998-04-06MSS 2011-01, Box 83
itemAppointment Books 1985-2010, 1985-2010MSS 2011-01, Box 84
itemJudge Williams portrait artist rendering. Sketch by Dana Verkouteren, 1984In Oversized Shelves in Special Collections Basement
itemBicentennial of the United States Constitution Calendar, 1987In Oversized Shelves in Special Collections Basement
itemFinal Concept Drawings. New Federal Courthouse, Richmond, Virginia, Robert A.M. Stern Architects HLM Design, 2002-08-07In Oversized Shelves in Special Collections Basement
seriesDigitized Law Clerk Notes