NEW ORLEANS (Louisiana Record) – Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Byron C. Williams, who has been under investigation for almost a year on sexual harassment allegations and who recently agreed to an interim suspension, now faces a lawsuit filed by court clerk who claims the judge harassed her, according to news reports.
The lawsuit reportedly was filed July 13 in Civil District Court alleging Williams sexually harassed and assaulted the clerk in 2015 in activities that include slapping her buttocks, fondling her breast and threatening to "tap that ass." The news report did not name the clerk, citing a policy against naming alleged victims of sexual assault.
The court clerk alleges she suffered emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment and other damages in her lawsuit, which does not specify a monetary amount she is seeking, according to one news report.
Williams' lawyer, New Orleans attorney Ernest Jones, has declined comment about the clerk's lawsuit but previously said that Williams "vigorously" denies the allegations, according to news reports.
Williams, a former federal prosecutor who served under one-time U.S. Attorney Eddie Jordan, is also a former state prosecutor and was as executive counsel to the president of Southern University until his run for judge. In 2014, he defeated longtime Municipal Court Judge Paul Sens for a Division G seat that was then vacant following the retirement of Judge Julian Parker. William's term expires in December 2020.
In April, Williams resigned as chairman of the New Orleans Recreational Development Commission, citing distraction caused by the allegations against him.
Williams is one of two judges in the state who were recently temporarily removed from the bench following allegations of improper conduct this month, according to an Associated Press report. St. John the Baptist Parish Judge Jeff Perilloux was suspended June 29 following his indictment over indecent behavior with a juvenile and sexual battery charges, according to the AP report, which cited other news sources.
Williams, who was elected in November 2014 to a six-year term on the bench of Orleans Parish's Criminal District Court Section G, has been under investigation since last September by the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana. The commission reportedly launched its investigation following multiple sexual harassment complaints against him.
The Judiciary Commission of Louisiana is a nine-member panel of three judges, three attorneys and three citizens, all empowered by the state Constitution to make recommendations to the Supreme Court to discipline legal professionals, according to the commission's page on the Supreme Court's website. The high court may disqualify without salary, involuntarily retire or take other action against a judge following a commission recommendation.
Williams was briefly a Judiciary Commission of Louisiana special counsel in 2008 and 2009.
In Williams' case, the high court handed down an interim disqualification on July 2 against Williams, with concurrence of the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana, during the pendency of the commission's continuing investigation.
The high court handed down its single-page order after Williams filed a motion asking for the interim disqualification.
The same day, the court also reportedly appointed three retired judges, Dennis Waldron, Calvin Johnson and Jerome Winsberg, to act in a temporary capacity on the bench in Section G.