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Friday, April 15, 2011 - 1:57pm

Judge Defends Court Under Glass' Lens

Updated: 3 years ago.
Judge Amanda Williams is under scrutiny for her approach to running drug court. In her first extended rebuttal since a critical report, her lawyer sharply defends her. (photo Glynn County)

A South Georgia Superior Court Judge is speaking out about charges made by public radio's Ira Glass.

Glynn County Judge Amanda Williams' defense doesn't satisfy some critics, who say her drug court is too punitive.

The report on PRI's This American Life last month leveled many accusations.

Among the most serious is that Williams violates the idea of drug court by handing out unusally harsh sentences.

Those include indefinite stays in solitary confinement.

"It's a common, daily practice in courts around Georgia and around the country," says David Oedel, a Macon-based attorney who represents Williams. "Glass' story struck me as libel mascarading as journalism."

Oedel says, while it's unusual for a judge to respond to press criticism, the hour-long national broadcast led to death threats against Williams.

The broadcast also has lit up judicial blogs and fueled calls for her resignation.

A press release issued Thursday is Williams' first extended rebuttal of the report and says the broadcast is "riddled with falsehoods."

Since the report, Glass has clarified it online, but says, he stands by it.

"Judge Williams and Mr. Oedel don't dispute and barely address at all the main two points of my story or the evidence I provide to back up those points," Glass says. "My story was about how this particular drug court, run by Judge Williams, is not run like other drug courts. Nothing in Judge Williams' and Mr. Oedel's press release and letter contradicts that."

Meanwhile, Williams' critics say, the judge may be violating other rules brought up during the broadcast.

"There are some cannons of judicial ethics that are implicated by all of this," says Brunswick attorney Mary Helen Moses, who unsuccessfully ran against Williams in a judicial race last year. "There are problems in the Brunswick judicial circuit and some of them have been aired in Mr. Glass' broadcast and there are others that haven't been."

The state Judicial Qualifications Commission will not comment on whether it is looking into any of the accusations.

The agency's investigations are confidential.

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