ATLANTA — A powerful Georgia judge accused of abusing her authority by ordering drug court defendants to be jailed indefinitely and once putting a man behind bars because he used the term “baby momma” is set to resign next month, according to a letter obtained Monday by The Associated Press.
Superior Court Judge Amanda F. Williams said in the letter to Gov. Nathan Deal that she would resign on Jan. 2 after 21 years on the bench. She also said in a consent order with the Judicial Qualifications Commission that she would not seek another judicial office and that she would turn down senior judge status.
The move would resolve the misconduct accusations against Williams and comes more than a month after the explosive allegations were filed against her, according to the consent letter.
The commission’s complaint said Williams could be so harsh that in 2008 she ordered a drug-court defendant with a history of suicide attempts to be jailed in solitary confinement, with no access to visitors except a drug counselor, until the judge ordered her released. The complaint says the woman spent 73 days in solitary confinement and tried to kill herself while in jail.
The resignation letter was signed by Williams, and the consent order was signed by both her and her attorneys but not by commission officials. Williams and her attorney could not be reached for comment late Monday. Jeffrey Davis, the commission’s director, declined to comment.
The agreement was set to be made public on Tuesday, according to an official who asked to speak anonymously because the information had not yet been publicly released.
The agency’s misconduct complaint didn’t contain criminal charges. But the commission has the power to investigate judges and recommend that they be removed from office. The agency reports to the Georgia Supreme Court.
Williams, 64, is the chief judge of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit that includes Glynn, Camden, Appling, Wayne and Jeff Davis counties in southeast Georgia. She has been in the position since 1990 and oversees the largest of Georgia’s drug courts, designed to allow some offenders to avoid prison if they get clean through treatment programs.
Up until Monday, Williams seemed eager to defend herself. Her attorney John Ossick has said she would contest the allegations at a hearing early next year, and her formal response to the allegations was due by January.
The complaint says Williams violated state canons governing judicial conduct by ordering several other drug court defendants jailed until she saw fit to release them.
One man was sent to jail for two weeks for disputing what he believed was a false positive drug test. Another went before Williams to request to be excused from a Saturday class so he could attend a family function.
“Because of your disdain for the young man’s use of the term ‘baby momma,’ you ordered that the defendant be summarily jailed,” the complaint says.
The complaint also accuses Williams of nepotism, saying she presided over cases in which her husband, attorney James Williams, and other family members were involved as attorneys. She was also accused of using “rude, abusive, or insulting language” on the bench. In one instance, investigators said, Williams screamed at a person she saw chuckling in her courtroom.
Accusations against Williams surfaced as she sought and won re-election to a sixth judicial term last year. Her critics gained national exposure in May when several of Williams’ drug defendants were featured in an hour-long story on the public radio show “This American Life.”