Ga. Judge Defends Drug Court Practices After Critical Episode of 'This American Life'

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A judge in southern Georgia is speaking out after a critical episode of the popular public radio program This American Life called into question her drug court procedures.

In the program, which aired last month, Ira Glass hosted an hour-long report “Very Tough Love” that largely portrayed the drug court operated by Glynn County Judge Amanda Williams as overly punitive.

Macon lawyer and Mercer University law professor David Oedel, who represents Williams, characterized the broadcast as “libel masquerading as journalism,” according to Georgia Public Broadcasting News.

On April 8, Oedel sent Glass a 14-page letter blasting the program and threatening legal action. “I stand ready to discuss your respective liabilities and possible strategies for settlement short of litigation,” Oedel wrote, “but I must warn you that we are moving forward with legal action.”

The Fulton County Daily Report has posted a copy Oedel’s letter (PDF).

Oedel says Williams was moved to respond because the national broadcast led to death threats against the judge and calls for her resignation.

But Glass and his lawyer, Michael M. Conway of Foley & Lardner in Chicago, fired back with their own responses. They maintain the substance of the reporting was true.

“Judge Williams and Mr. Oedel don’t dispute and barely address at all the main two points of my story or the evidence I provide to back up those points,” Glass said in his response posted on This American Life’s website. “My story was about how this particular drug court, run by Judge Williams, is not run like other drug courts. Nothing in Judge Williams’ and Mr. Oedel’s press release and letter contradicts that.”

Read Conway’s response (PDF).

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