On Thursday, June 6, 2024, the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission filed formal charges against Shermela J. Williams, a judge on the Fulton County Superior Court. The JQC accused Judge Williams of 17 counts of violating the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct through her handling of cases.

The case is entitled “In the Matter of Judge Shermela J. Williams,” with case numbers 2022-102, 2023-223, and 2023-348.

The charges stem from three separate complaints lodged against Judge Williams regarding her handling of eight different cases in her court. Specifically, Judge Williams is accused of giving preferential treatment to a sorority sister in a child custody case and failing to issue timely rulings in several domestic cases.

According to the complaint, Judge Williams was assigned a child custody case in September 2021 where one of the attorneys involved belonged to the same sorority as the judge. When the mother’s lawyer inquired if the case could be reassigned to avoid even the appearance of bias, Judge Williams directly contacted the mother on her personal cell phone to discuss the case without informing the father who filed the petition. Judge Williams is also accused of canceling an initial hearing to avoid the other attorney learning about the case due to sorority ties.

Over the following months, as concerns about bias were raised by attorneys on both sides, Judge Williams refused to recuse herself from the case. It is alleged she told another attorney not involved in the case that she did not want to recuse due to political concerns, and complained the mother had “made it personal.” Judge Williams only voluntarily recused herself minutes after denying the mother’s recusal motion, citing alleged misrepresentations though maintaining direct contact with the mother earlier in the case.

The other charges stem from Judge Williams’ delays in issuing rulings for several domestic cases. The JQC complaint specifies seven cases where litigants waited between 14 and 30 months for decisions, despite repeated requests to expedite the matters. In two child support cases, final orders were allegedly given over two and a half years after final hearings concluded. Judge Williams only ruled after warnings of complaints against her for the tardiness.

If found guilty of any of the 17 counts, Judge Williams faces potential penalties ranging from a public reprimand to removal from office. She has maintained through her attorney that she conducted herself properly and aims to defend her actions and reputation as a fair and just jurist.

Judge Williams‘ courtroom is located at 185 Central Ave, S.W., Atlanta, GA 30303, and can be reached at 404-612-4991.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.