From the Providence Journal:
Frank J. Williams, the retired chief justice of the R.I. Supreme Court, who has been embroiled in a messy divorce case involving his former driver, announced today that he will no longer hear any new court cases.
At 12:30 p.m., Michael M. Doyle, of the RDW public relations group, issued a three-paragraph statement saying that Williams has asked his successor, Chief Justice Paul A. Suttell, not to assign him any more cases.
Williams, 69, formally resigned from the court in December 2008, but at the court’s request, agreed to assist on an interim basis.
“The events surrounding the family court matter are personal in nature, but the media accounts are causing an unwarranted and unnecessary distraction for the court,” Williams said in a statement. “The welfare of the judiciary has always been extremely important to me. I do not want it adversely affected by personal and collateral matters.”
Craig Berke, spokesman for the Rhode Island Judiciary, said that Suttell and Williams have been in “ongoing discussions” about his future role with the court in the past few days.
Suttell called Williams’ decision to step aside “best for the court.” He said he will not ask Williams to perform any further judicial duties for the Supreme Court, but that Williams will continue to deliberate and write decisions on cases heard by the court through Oct. 6.
“There is no question that this matter has become a distraction,” Suttell said in a press release. “It is clearly in the best interests of the judiciary that the former chief justice be relieved of judicial responsibilities at this time.”
Berke said Suttell would not be asking former Chief Justice Joseph R. Weisberger, who continues to perform mediation duties for the court, to fill in as a fifth justice until a new member of the court is chosen. The court will hear cases with just four justices sitting until a new member comes on.
And from WRNI:
Frank J. Williams, whose departure from the Rhode Island Supreme Court was announced today, will never be mistaken for a shrinking violet. His hard-charging persona was evident throughout his eight-year tenure as chief justice, including when, in the view of some, he helped usher in the ouster of former Ethics Commission director Martin Healey.
So Williams’ relative reticence since he was named in an unusual and highly publicized divorce case is out of character.
Supreme Court spokesman Craig Berke says that Williams remains out of the country. But Berke believes that Williams one day hopes to tell his side of the divorce story. When this will be, of course, is hard to say.