Ethics charges filed against Judge Amanda Williams
11:52 am, November 10th, 2011
The state Judicial Qualifications Commission has filed ethics charges against a Superior Court judge in Brunswick, accusing her of “willful misconduct in office” that includes jailing defendants indefinitely and lying to the JQC about the practice.
In a 31-page notice (view that here) that includes 12 counts of ethics violations, the JQC also accused Amanda F. Williams, chief judge of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit, of improperly allowing members of her family to litigate cases in front of her, allowing her social and political relationships influence her judicial conduct, and improperly endorsing a local candidate for district attorney.
The charges also accuse Williams of issuing ex-parte orders on substantive legal matters without the knowledge or input of all parties involved in the disputes, holding hearings in chambers without a court reporter present, improperly jailing people who appeared before her, demonstrating an open bias against defendants, and using “rude, abusive and insulting language” in court.
Leah Ward Sears, former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia, and former Georgia attorney general Michael J. Bowers will prosecute Williams before the JQC on the ethics charges. Sears, who stepped down from the high court in 2009, is an attorney at the Atlanta offices of Chicago firm Schiff Hardin. Bowers, who has handled other prosecutions for the JQC, is a partner at the Atlanta offices of Balch & Bingham. The JQC filed charges against Williams late Wednesday at the Supreme Court.
Williams, became the Brunswick Circuit’s first female Superior Court judge when she was elected to the post in 1990. She earned her law degree at John Marshall School of Law in Atlanta in 1977, and was elected to her sixth term in 2010.
Williams was the subject last spring of a lengthy and controversial report by “This American Life”, a weekly public radio show hosted by Chicago reporter Ira Glass. The March 25 broadcast, “Very Tough Love” — during which Glass described Williams as “a judge many people truly fear” – led to calls across the nation for Williams’ impeachment. According to the judge, the broadcast also generated death threats against her.
The Daily Report will update this story later today.