This is a story of ethically challenged characters who conspired to win a lawsuit with a potentially large cash payoff.
It involves a cub lawyer who violated Georgia Bar1 Association Code, an aggressive Chief Judge of the Glynn County Superior Court, who has a vested interest in her son’s financial success, and a Clerk of the Court whose salary is dependent on the good graces of the Chief Judge and who also writes orders for another Superior Court Judge.
This clique was successful in overturning key decisions handed down during years of prior litigation.
Chief Superior Court Judge Amanda F. Williams is the mother of Nathan Williams a junior attorney in Glynn County, Ga. Judge Williams owns the office that Mr. Williams uses and has a financial interest in his success. Judge Amanda Williams has asked attorneys in our community to send business to her young son.
In addition Judge Williams has intimidated a lawyer to withdraw representation of a long standing client who is being sued by Nathan Williams.
Judge Williams has important say in the compensation of her law clerk, Mr. Edward R. Zacker, for whom she obtained a $4,000 a year raise by special request to the Glynn County Commission.
Judge Williams is known to be an imperious person who has earned a reputation for aggressive and arbitrary behavior in her courtroom. Because of her impulsive conduct Judge Amanda Williams is the most reversed Superior Court Judge in the Glynn County Court System.
Mr. Edward R. Zacker serves as a clerk for Judge Amanda Williams and also serves as clerk for Judge E. M. Wilkes III for whom he writes orders. Mr. Zacker misrepresents his status to the State Bar of Georgia as an “inactive member” when he actually is an “active member”. In which case Mr. Zacker would be obligated to pay over twice the dues that he currently pays to the State Bar of Georgia and would also be required to keep his continuing legal education skills in ethics and professionalism current. This should have prevented the conduct that resulted in his crafting an order of contempt after Nathan Williams had bombarded Judge Wilkes with letters over a period of eleven months. Not only are members of the State Bar of Georgia governed by its rules of conduct, members are charged with the responsibility of reporting any misconduct.
In this case not only was Nathan Williams operating under a concealed contingency agreement* with his client, he also made false statements to the court relating to the use of an alias by the plaintiff.
In addition, Mr. Edward Zacker had series of discussions with the presiding Judge about a case that excluded the presence of the defendant’s attorney Mr. Millard Farmer. After a hearing on the motion for contempt and before the order was presented to Judge E. M.Wilkes for execution, Nathan Williams also communicated with Mr. Edward R. Zacker about issues in the case in the absence of counsel for the defendant Joe Iannicelli. This communication deprived Joe Iannicelli of the opportunity to have the court accord him statutory and constitutional rights. It should be noted that Zacker’s order also failed to address issues of dormancy and use of a false alias by Williams’ plaintiff (Joyce Head) raised by defendants attorney.
The combined interaction of Nathan Williams, Chief Judge Amanda Williams and Edward Zacker resulted in Mr. Zacker, acting as law clerk of Judge E.M. Wilkes III, to write an order on February 18th, 2009 holding Joe Iannicelli in contempt of court and subject to incarceration. Mr. Zacker’s order reversed rulings of three previous Judges which refused to hold Joe Iannicelli in contempt for not paying alimony.
It is ironic that the first time this issue was litigated 30 years ago Judge Robert L. Scoggin handed down a decision that Joe Iannicelli was not in contempt of court for not paying alimony to the plaintiff Alma Joyce Head because “just cause existed for arrearage” and the plaintiff “could not enforce by contempt and order that she herself was defying”. In other words plaintiff did not have “clean hands” because she abandoned custody of two teenaged sons. Mr. Iannicelli’s attorney in that case was Mr. James Williams, father of Nathan Williams and husband of Chief Judge Amanda Williams.
The ruling of Judge Wilkes reversed the orders of at two other Superior Court Judges over a period of about 25 years that they would not hold Joe Iannicelli in contempt for not paying alimony because the defendant’s ex-wife violated the divorce decree when she abandoned custody of two teenage sons. Her conduct deprived her of any rights to a contempt citation.
In retrospect, considering the pressures and influence of Judge Amanda Williams, Nathan Williams and Edward Zacker, it is almost inconceivable that Judge Wilkes would not give Nathan Williams what he wanted, which was a verdict of contempt and incarceration crafted by Zacker.
The same outcome could be expected for other defendants sued by Nathan Williams in cases brought before Judge E.M. Wilkes III. It should be pointed out that Chief Judge Amanda Williams has a great deal of authority in the assigning of cases to Glynn County Superior Court Judges.
1 EC-2-20 …….Because of the human relationships involved and the unique character of the proceedings, contingent fee arrangements in domestic relation cases are rarely justified. ……..Public policy properly condemns contingent fee arrangements in criminal cases, largely on the ground that legal services in criminal cases do not produce a res with which to pay the fee.
* Nathan Williams was given this case by Anthony Harrison (now Judge Harrison) who also sued Mr. Iannicelli under a contingency agreement with Ms. Head. Judge Amanda Williams supported Mr. Harrison during his campaign for Judge. Mr. Harrison was not successful in persuading Judge White to incarcerate Mr. Iannicelli in November, 2000.