NEW ORLEANS — The Louisiana Supreme Court recently relieved attorney Gregory F. Williams of his license to practice law.
The ruling, which also barred Williams from being re-admitted to practice law, came after further review during Williams’ prior interim suspension. The initial suspension was the result of a May 2015 hearing in regards to charges brought up by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) due to the respondent allegedly taking part in a bribery scheme.
The Supreme Court handed down its ruling on Dec. 6.
The allegations arose from an investigation into the practices of the 15th Judicial District, where Williams served as district attorney. According to court documents, Williams and a judge in the district created a program in 2007 wherein certain DWI defendants could opt into a program known as “immediate 894 pleas.” The pleas were a way for chosen defendants to complete tasks typically handed down with DWI convictions — such as community-service hours and substance-abuse programs —prior to sentencing. If a defendant completed all necessary steps, the court would dismiss the case, and driving privileges would immediately be restored.
In 2010, a man named Robert Williamson, who allegedly acted as a lawyer despite never having been licensed, began soliciting the program to his clients for financial gain. The documents provided by the Supreme Court claim that Williams was aware of these actions and was provided gifts ranging from a signed New Orleans Saints hat to business suits and a cash payment of $500. This payment of gifts allegedly took place between 2010 and 2011.
Charges were filed against Williams on Jan. 16, 2013. Shortly after, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery. He informed the court that he was aware of Williamson’s practice and that the amount of money in the transactions was more than $5,000.
Williams was sentenced to two years probation in July 2015.
In February 2013, the ODC charged Williams with violation of professional conduct, a charge to which he pleaded guilty.
The ODC held a hearing in regards to Williams’ law license, the findings of which determined that Williams’ prior claims of voluntarily surrendering his license were false. According to court documents, the hearing committee determined that the lenient sentence Williams had received was heavily influenced by his claims of surrendering his license.
Upon learning of the hearing committee’s recommendation to permanently disbar him, Williams immediately filed an objection. Williams claimed the sentencing was too strong and that the committee provided insufficient evidence to support the recommendation, and that assumptions were made without facts.. The Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board later upheld the factual findings of the hearing committee, determining that Williams had violated professional conduct.
The Supreme Court then reviewed and handed down sentencing on the case.