The Superior Court judges of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit are reassigning to other judges all of the criminal cases currently assigned to court’s chief judge, Amanda F. Williams, pending the resolution of ethics charges against her.
Williams’ four colleagues on the Superior Court bench made the decision yesterday afternoon following a private meeting with Williams, Superior Court Judge Anthony L. Harrison told the Daily Report. Judges attending the meeting included Stephen G. Scarlett, Stephen D. Kelley and E.M. Willkes III, in addidtion to Williams and Harrison. The cases that will be reassigned include all of Williams’ drug court cases, Harrison said.
Harrison said that Williams will retain “some limited role” in civil cases that are currently assigned to her, but he declined to comment on specifics until an order memorializing the case reassignments is completed and filed this afternoon.
Williams was in conference and could not be reached immediately for comment.
Harrison said that during the meeting, the judges did not discuss with Williams the ethics charges filed against her last week by the Judicial Qualifications Commission, the state’s judicial disciplinary agency.
In a 31-page notice, the JQC accused Williams last week of “willful misconduct in office,” including her alleged practice of jailing drug court defendants indefinitely. According to the charges, Williams also allegedly improperly allowed members of her family to litigate cases in front of her, allowed her social and political relationships to influence her judicial conduct, and improperly gave her political endorsement to a woman who is now the circuit’s 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.
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” examined Williams’ practices in presiding over the Brunswick circuit’s drug courts and described her as a judge that people “truly fear.”
Read more from the Daily Report about the Judge Williams charges here. Associated documents, including the JQC’s 31-page notice, are available at that link too.