John Williams '12 is clerking for Judge Gilbert S. Merritt Jr. '60 of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals during 2012-13.
Williams was one of 94 Vanderbilt Law students who served an internship for credit during summer 2010. Williams worked at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where he was put to work in the Narcotics Section and found a mentor in Steve Kotz '84, a career Assistant U.S. Attorney who specializes in dealing with property forfeiture cases. "The government can lawfully seize any property used to perpetrate a drug crime," Williams said. He recalls enjoying the opportunities to "do a lot of research on areas of law I'd never been exposed to before," including drafting a response to challenges from two claimants after a Drug Enforcement Agent seized an unregistered plane used to transport illegal narcotics. Williams also had an opportunity to work with an attorney who specialized in wiretaps.
After his summer in New Mexico, Williams joined the staff of the Vanderbilt Law Review (VLR) serving as senior En Banc editor during his 3L year. En Banc is an online forum that offers law professors and legal practitioners an opportunity to respond to articles published in the VLR and to comment on upcoming Supreme Court cases. Williams’s Note, “Qualifying Qualified Immunity,” was published in the May 2012 edition of the VLR (volume 65, page 1295), and he received the Myron Penn Laughlin Note Award, which recognizes the best Law Review Note, for the Class of 2012. “The Law Review was a wonderful place to learn about legal scholarship and to work on my own,” Williams said.
During summer 2011, Williams worked pro bono for the Tennessee Justice Center, a public-interest firm that focuses on ensuring health care for the indigent, aided by a Vanderbilt summer stipend. He continued to pursue public-interest work during his 3L year in the law school’s Appellate Litigation Clinic, led by Professor Alistair Newbern. He collaborated on a brief for one prisoner and argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on behalf of another. “Prison litigation is notoriously tangled, and most inmates lack legal representation to protect their constitutional rights,” Williams said. “It was gratifying to be able to help an underserved population while also negotiating a challenging body of law. Arguing before the Sixth Circuit was a highlight of law school.”