Appellate Clinic News: Fourth Circuit Issues Opinion in U.S. v. Williams

clinic logoOn December 14, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued a published opinion in U.S. v. Williams in favor of the appellant, represented by William & Mary Law School's Appellate and Supreme Court Clinic. The opinion (open .pdf) was a unanimous decision, authored by Judge Robert B. King and joined by Judges Barbara Milano Keenan and Henry F. Floyd.

This case involved a violation of the defendant's Fourth Amendment right against warrantless seizure when police officers continued to detain Mr. Williams past a traffic stop in order to conduct a drug investigation. The court ruled that the government failed to demonstrate that the factors observed-either separately or cumulatively-established reasonable suspicion to justify further detention. To justify extending a routine traffic stop into a drug investigation, the police officers needed to have objective reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The court analyzed each of the four factors cited by the government separately and together, finding that the benign nature did not meet the expected standard.  The court thus vacated Mr. Williams's conviction and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings.

Amber Will, a third-year law student at William &  Mary, argued the case with the support of Abigail Snider, also a third-year student at the school. William & Mary law students in past semesters of the clinic, including Claire Wheeler J.D.'15, Danny Yates J.D. '15, Brittany Sadler J.D. '14, and Andrew Steinberg J.D. '14, prepared briefs and motions. Students in the clinic practice under the supervision of Adjunct Professor Tillman J. Breckenridge, a partner at Bailey & Glasser LLP and the director of the Law School's Appellate and Supreme Court Clinic.

Breckenridge said the opinion marked  “a great day for our client, for the clinic, and for all the students (present and past) who worked on this case. It is very hard to get a criminal conviction vacated on appeal, and it took a team of talented and hardworking William & Mary law students to make it happen.”

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