Lawyer Appeals Disciplinary Case That Started With A Speeding Ticket
It all started with a speeding ticket. The situation escalated with a strongly worded letter to a court clerk, and then reached the precipice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Now 10 years after he was first pulled over, Stephen J. Williams, of Storrs, is continuing to fight a disciplinary case that led to a his law license being suspended in two states and the District of Columbia, as well as a temporary ban from practicing in federal court.
The initial suspension was supposed to be for six months. But because Williams chose to fight the suspensions on constitutional and procedural grounds, and has refused to take court-ordered professional standards courses because it would be a mark on his permanent disciplinary record, his license to practice has been put on hold for seven years.
"People have asked me, 'Why don't you just take the course?' My license could be reinstated if I did that, but then I would have a history and I would have accepted they were right," Williams said. "For me, the only option is prevail. I want my license back, and I want them to say, 'Whoops, we made a mistake.'"
Williams, who refers to his case as "the poster boy for judicial abuse," is pressing on. In an appeal recently filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Williams continues to dispute the lawfulness of the Connecticut discipline decision. He's also launched a renewed attack on the principal of reciprocal discipline, in which lawyers licensed in multiple jurisdictions face identical punishment in each for a single rule violation in one.
Mark Dubois, Connecticut's former state's chief disciplinary counsel whose office was involved in the original case against Williams, credited his one-time opponent for his tenacity.
"It is probably the most unusual case I ever dealt with," said Dubois, who is now a private practice attorney in New London and president-elect of the Connecticut Bar Association. "We got his appeal of the matter dismissed by our Supreme Court. That appeal dealt with both the criminal case and the disciplinary one. The District Court [decided] the reciprocal case against him on the lawyer discipline and he took that to SCOTUS. They did not take it.
"Now he is fighting the issue at the Second Circuit? Fascinating."
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Williams is a financial professional in the international banking world, with an MBA as well as law licenses to practice in New York, Connecticut and Washington, D.C., and in federal court. His disciplinary problem started in April 2004, when he was living in Hong Kong and working for an insurance company there.