ATLANTA (CN) - Georgia's judicial ethics board filed misconduct charges against the head of the state's largest drug court. The Commission on Judicial Qualifications accused Glynn County Superior Court Chief Judge Amanda Williams of "tyrannical partiality," making false statements, indefinitely incarcerating defendants, abusing court visitors and defendants, and nepotism.
The 12-count Notice of Formal Proceedings caps a long investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Commission, made up of state-appointed investigators and attorneys, with former Georgia Supreme Court Justice Leah Ward Sears and former state Attorney General Michael Bowers as lead prosecutors on this case.
The Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) already was investigating Williams when a March 2011 report from National Public Radio's "This American Life" brought some of Williams' behavior on the bench into the public spotlight.
Program host Ira Glass focused on the story of defendant Lindsey Dills, a repeat drug offender with a history of suicidal behavior whom Williams incarcerated for an indefinite jail term. Glass also reported on other cases in Judge Williams' court.
Drug Court, an alternative for repeat drug offenders, allows a defendant the chance to enter a county rehab drug education program, instead of doing hard time in jail.
According to the JQC complaint, Dills originally was charged with forging her parents' checks in 2005 and under the terms of her sentence entered into a drug court contract. When she violated the contract in 2008, Williams sentenced her to a 28-day prison sentence. According to the JQC's 31-page complaint, Williams knew Dills was suicidal.
"Despite her history, on or about October 8, 2008, you held in chambers and outside the presence of the public and a court reporter, a hearing at which you sanctioned Dills to 28 days in custody for 'violation of [her] drug court contract,'" the JQC complaint states.
It continues: "However, on or about October 8, 2008, after Dills was taken into custody and transported to jail, you sua sponte modified her 28-day sentence to a period of confinement 'indefinitely' in the Glynn County Jail and 'until further order of the court.'
"Furthermore, on or about October 8, 2008, after Dills had been sentenced and transported to jail, and you returned to the courtroom and gave verbal directives to personnel and/or court officers, to wit: 'On Lindsey Dills, she is not to have any telephone privileges and no one is to contact or visit her except Gail Kelly! Nobody! Total restriction!'
Dills was held for 73 days, during which "No one, including either Dills' drug counselor or her attorney, visited her," the complaint states.
She tried to kill herself on Dec. 9, "while in solitary and restrictive confinement," but even "(a)fter this suicide attempt, Dills remained on court-ordered lock-down until about December 22, 2008, when she was subsequently transferred to an inpatient treatment facility," the complaint states.
It continues: "At the time you ordered Dills into indefinite, restrictive custody, you knew or should have known that Dills was predisposed to suicidal tendencies, having previously signed an order placing her on a suicide-watch while she was in custody.
"When queried, you and/or your legal counsel, on your behalf, knowingly denied that you ordered any defendant at any time to be held in restricted custody, solitary confinement, or otherwise directed the conditions by which an inmate should be housed."
The JQC report says that Dills is not the only drug court defendant Walker ordered to be incarcerated indefinitely.