Mike Williams ’79 honored with Richard S. Arnold Award

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November 30, 2021, 17:08 GMT

The “Richard S. Arnold Award for Distinguished Service” was recently awarded by the Eighth Circuit Bar Association to Mike Williams of the Maring Williams Law Office. 

Mike Williams is a proud graduate of the University of North Dakota School of Law. After graduating in 1979, he entered private practice in Bismarck, North Dakota, and began a legal career that has been defined by zealous advocacy for people with disabilities and service to the state bar association and his community.

Shortly after entering private practice, Mike became co-counsel on a landmark case that helped to establish equal rights for people with disabilities, ARC of North Dakota v. Olson, 561 F. Supp.  473 (D.N.D. 1982). This case created a state-wide service delivery system that allowed people with disabilities to escape sub-standard and deplorable institutional care by providing them with quality programs and services in less-restrictive, community-based settings. As a direct result of this case, North Dakota was recognized as a national leader in the provision of quality community-based programs and services for people with disabilities. This case occupied the first 16 years of Mr. Williams’s legal career, and Mike has remained a zealous advocate for people with disabilities in the decade or more since it ended. He is a frequent speaker on the rights of people with disabilities at schools, universities, and other groups and agencies.

Mike has been very active in the State Bar Association of North Dakota (SBAND). After serving on multiple committees with SBAND, Mike was elected and served as President in 2005.  During his tenure, a primary SBAND goal involved expanding volunteer legal services to underserved people in North Dakota through the Volunteer Lawyers Program which provides free and reduced fee services to people in need. In 2013, Mike was appointed to the Pro Bono Task Force whose goal was to address ways to expand pro bono legal services to those in need. Mike was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by SBAND in 2020 for outstanding service to the state and legal community.  

Mike also served on the Board of Governors of the North Dakota Association for Justice (NDAJ), and was elected and served as President of NDAJ in 2004. During his tenure, NDAJ recognized the need to preserve the values and traditions of the trial lawyer among future lawyers, and NDAJ established a mentor program for law students at the University of North Dakota Law School to promote this goal. NDAJ and SBAND have now operated the mentorship program at the UND School of Law for many years. Mike has been a mentor in the program, and has helped to recruit additional mentors for hundreds of law students since the inception of the program. In 2021, Mike received the Light of Justice award from NDAJ for his years of dedication and service to the Law and to the consistent and steadfast pursuit of Truth and Justice.

The Richard S. Arnold Award for Distinguished Service was presented at the Eighth Circuit Judicial Conference held in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on October 29, 2021.  The award is named in honor of former Chief Judge Richard S. Arnold, who led a distinguished career that included graduating first in his class at Yale University and Harvard Law School.  Judge Arnold clerked for Justice William Brennan on the Supreme Court of the United States before entering private practice and serving on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.  Judge Arnold’s biographer said that he was “perhaps the best judge never to serve on the Supreme Court.”