Brunswick Georgia Judge Amanda Williams has resigned under extreme fire. One down and a few hundreds corrupt Georgia judges to go….
In her courtroom in Brunswick, Georgia, Judge Amanda F. Williams told lawyers to “sit down and shut up.”
She once jailed a defendant for using the words â€œbaby momma.â€ And she detained offenders â€œindefinitelyâ€ without access to lawyers, state judicial investigators say.
But on Monday, December 19, 2011, Judge Amanda Williams, the chief judge of the Superior Court of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit â€” a powerful, controversial figure who gained national exposure when the public radio program â€œThis American Lifeâ€ devoted an hour-long episode to her â€” announced that she was leaving the bench after 21 years.
Judge Amanda Williams, 64, who said she would resign on January 2, 2012, faced wide-ranging misconduct accusations. She vowed not to seek another judgeship, and, as a result, those complaints will be dropped, the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission said.
She could still face criminal charges related to her conduct.
She was first elected in 1990 to the court, which handles cases in five southeast Georgia counties. For more than a decade, she also ran the stateâ€™s largest drug court.
She has long been known as an aggressive, combative judge, lawyers say. But in recent years, they say, her behavior grew harsher and more punitive.
In November and December, the judicial commission brought formal complaints against Judge Williams, after receiving multiple complaints from lawyers.
The commission accused her of giving special treatment to the relatives of her friends, allowing her personal lawyer to represent clients before her and behaving in a â€œtyrannicalâ€ manner.
According to the commissionâ€™s 14-count list of charges against her, she sentenced drug court defendants to â€œindefiniteâ€ detention â€œuntil further order of the court.â€ In one case, she ordered that a defendant be denied any communication. â€œNobody! Total restriction!â€ she ordered, according to the complaint. â€œNo mail, no phone calls, no visitors.â€ The complaint says the defendant, who had a history of mental illness, spent 73 days in solitary confinement and tried to kill herself while in jail.
â€œJudge Williams was a person you did not cross,â€ said J. Robert Morgan, a lawyer in Brunswick who argued cases before her. â€œShe ruled by fear and intimidation. Iâ€™ve been in front of 50 judges in 34 years and Iâ€™ve never seen anything like her.â€
Her lawyer, John J. Ossick Jr., declined to comment. Judge Williams did not return phone calls. But in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in April, she defended her behavior. â€œI didnâ€™t just decide I was going to be mean to these people,â€ she said. â€œThese people arenâ€™t sitting in jail forever and ever and ever and ever. Iâ€™m fair. Iâ€™m consistent. I do care.â€
In March, â€œThis American Lifeâ€ broadcast an entire episode about Judge Williams and what it called â€œpossibly the toughest drug court in the country.â€
Douglas W. Alexander, a lawyer in St. Simons, was initially a supporter of Judge Williams. But as her power grew and the drug court expanded, she became more combative and punitive, Mr. Alexander said. â€œShe would tell a lawyer to shut up and sit down,â€ he said. â€œShe would rant and rave and belittle people.â€ For years, lawyers tolerated the behavior for fear of retribution against their clients, several lawyers said. â€œPeople cussed her in the dark because they were afraid to cuss her in the daylight,â€ Mr. Morgan said. â€œThereâ€™s not many tears being shed about this announcement.â€
A version of this article appeared in print on December 21, 2011, on page A29 of the New York edition with the headline: Georgia Judge Accused of Misconduct Will Resign
Attribution: New York Times