Pubdate: Wed, 09 Nov 2011
Source: Florida Times-Union (FL)
Copyright: 2011 The Florida Times-Union
Author: Terry Dickson. Walter C. Jones, Bureau Chief, Times-Union Atlanta contributed to this report. 


The Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission has informed Glynn
County Superior Court Judge Amanda Williams it would proceed with
action that could result in her removal from the bench.

She is charged with 12 violations of judicial canons including jailing
defendants without proper hearings, choosing the judges for cases
involving her family members who are lawyers, and having bailiffs
handcuff a student who cried in her court, who Williams had admonished
for laughing.

Williams and her lawyer, Wallace E. Harrell, could not be reached
Wednesday night.

Wednesday's notice of formal proceedings is similar to a grand jury
indictment for judges. Williams, who has 21 years on the bench, has 30
days to file a response. If she contests the charges, she'll go to
trial about mid-January.

The commission would conduct the trial.

The verdict would be filed with the Supreme Court, whose justices will
vote on accepting its recommendation and access a punishment, from a
reprimand to suspension or even removal from the bench.

The first count centers on Lindsey Dills, a defendant in drug court,
who Williams ordered into "indefinite restrictive custody" without
giving her the right to be heard, the complaint asserts.

That action violates a Code of Judicial Conduct requiring that judges
give a defendant or the defendant's lawyer "the right to be heard
according to law," the complaint says.

The complaint says Dills entered the drug court program in March 2005
after pleading guilty to forging two of her parents' checks. After
sentencing Dills to 28 days in jail, Williams amended the sentence to
indefinite confinement "until further order of the court," the
complaint says.

Williams also forbade that Dills have visitors, mail or phone calls
except for a drug court counselor, the complaint says.

On Dec. 9, 2008, Dills attempted suicide while in solitary
confinement, but remained on solitary and restrictive confinement 14
more days until her transfer to an inpatient treatment facility, the
complaint says.

When asked about the assertion, Williams, her lawyer or both denied
she had ever ordered any defendant held in restrictive custody,
although drug court personnel said she had done so, the complaint says.

Among other accusations:

Williams sanctioned drug court participant Charlie McCullough with 14
days in jail for exercising his right to contest a drug screen.

When drug court defendant Charles Cunningham absconded, Williams
issued a bench warrant for his arrest and, after his Nov. 7, 2009,
arrest, left him in custody until the summer of 2010, the complaint

She is accused of showing favoritism in requiring payment to her
daughter who was acting as a court-appointed guardian. In one case she
ordered the parties to pay her daughter $1,000 within 30 days or be
subject to contempt of court.

Williams also failed to recuse herself in cases in which her children
and husband appeared as lawyers, the complaint says.

The complaint lists five cases in which Williams picked the judge to
hear cases in which her son, Nathan, or daughter, Frances Dyal, were
acting as lawyers.

Williams' public endorsement of Jackie Johnson when she ran for
district attorney also violated the code of judicial conduct, the
complaint says.

The first nine counts in the complaint apply to a prohibition on
judges "using tyrannical partiality in the administration or under the
color of your office," the complaint says.

The final count says Williams made material false statements as the
Judicial Qualifications Committee investigated complaints made against

Jeffrey Davis, director of the commission, often invites judges facing
allegations to meet privately with the seven-member commission to
explain their side. If the commission is considering formal
proceedings, he generally shows a draft of the formal notice to the
judge to negotiate a resignation instead of a public trial. However,
he makes it a policy that the reasons for that resignation will be
made public.
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