Carine Williams Riffs on a Very Public Mistake, the SCOTUS Decision She'd Overturn, and the Attorney She Follows on Twitter

Discovery with Carine M. Williams

Published in 2019 New York Metro Super Lawyers magazine

By Carine M. Williams on October 2, 2019


When I was a newbie lawyer I … once circulated a brief replete with instances of The Dread Typo—the one where you
accidentally drop the “l” in “public.”

The quality I most like in a lawyer is … good judgment. The rest you can figure out from a book.

My career high point (so far) has been … delivering the news to Herman Wallace, an innocent man wrongfully incarcerated for more than 40 years, that the federal court had vacated his conviction and ordered his immediate release.

I almost quit the law because … in that very case, over and over again, state and federal courts grossly delayed ruling on Wallace’s claims for relief—such that he died three days after his release.

If I weren’t a lawyer I’d … be a florist.

The SCOTUS justice I’d most like to meet is … Justice Thurgood Marshall.

The SCOTUS decision I’d most like to overturn is … McClesky v. Kemp (1987). A sharply divided court rejected stark evidence of racial discrimination in the administration of the death penalty because, among other flawed reasons, treating such evidence as cognizable would open the door to widespread challenges to all aspects of sentencing. As dissenting Justice Brennan observed, “such a statement seems to suggest a fear of too much justice.”

My courtroom walkup music would be … “All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled.

My favorite Twitter feed is … George Conway’s.

The most fascinating person I ever met is … my paternal grandmother. She escaped genocide in the Dominican Republic at age 13; was the first woman in her town to wear pants; and relentlessly insisted that I pursue higher education. She urged me, “First, get your high school degree, and then after that your college degree. And then if there’s another after that, get that one too. Get all the degrees they have!”

My favorite TED talk is … Brené Brown, “The Power of Vulnerability.”

The craziest thing I witnessed in a courtroom … is the blind belief in the legal fictions of our criminal proceedings: e.g., speedy trials; juveniles tried as adults; a jury of your peers. It’s the craziest thing.

Three people I’d invite to dinner are … the authors of the three books I read most recently: Elizabeth Gilbert (City of Girls); Albert Woodfox (Solitary); and Michelle Obama (Becoming).

Nothing cheers me up like … playing with my puppy, SpottieOttie Dogalicious Angel.

If I won the lottery I … would start a public interest law firm that focused on criminal justice impact litigation. (Yes, I triple-checked that for The Dread Typo.)

The question I get annoyed by is … “Are you the court reporter?” To be clear, court reporters are amazing. I just always wonder, “Why didn’t you ask him that?”

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