Former New Orleans judge accused of groping court employee stripped of law license

Published: Jun. 28, 2022 at 3:53 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 28, 2022 at 4:31 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Former New Orleans Criminal Court Judge Byron C. Williams, who resigned two years ago while still under investigation for accusations he groped a courthouse employee, has had his license to practice law in the state suspended for a year and a day by the Louisiana Supreme Court.

By a split 4-3 decision, the justices of the state’s highest court accepted the penalty enshrined in a joint petition for consent discipline agreed upon by Williams and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. Justices William Crain, James Genovese and Jay McCallum opposed the disciplinary settlement.

A courtroom staffer alleged that in July 2017, as she was on a phone call at her desk, Williams twice crept up from behind and touched her chest before scampering out of her office. Female attorneys also accused Williams of inappropriate behavior and comments from the bench during his five-year tenure overseeing Section G of the city’s Criminal District Court.

Williams denied the allegations, but was suspended when the state’s Judiciary Commission began investigating his alleged conduct. Williams collected his annual $152,000 paycheck for another 18 months as the investigation and suspension dragged on, before he finally resigned from the criminal court bench in February 2020.

Louisiana taxpayers also were on the hook for a $52,500 settlement the state agreed to pay Williams’ chief accuser in July 2020, in exchange for her agreement to drop lawsuits she filed against Williams, the Criminal District Court and the state. Williams was not required to admit any wrongdoing nor pony up any of the settlement expenses, according to documents obtained in March 2021 by the Louisiana Illuminator as part of a public records request.

The financial settlement was the most expensive one related to sexual misconduct that the state’s Office of Risk Management paid out in 2020, according to documents the Illuminator received from Louisiana’s Department of Administration.

The report said Williams still receives more than $5,300 per month in state retirement benefits accrued through more than 13 years of public service. Williams’ previously worked in public education, for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and for four years with the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office under DA Eddie Jordan and interim DA Keva Landrum.

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