Georgia prosecutors are suing to strike down a new state law that undermines their authority

Aug 2, 2023, 7:02 AM | Updated: 10:34 am

DECATUR, Ga. (AP) — Four district attorneys in Georgia are asking a judge to strike down a law creating a commission to discipline and remove state prosecutors, arguing it violates the U.S. and Georgia constitutions.

The attack on Georgia’s Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission, filed Wednesday in Fulton County Superior Court in Atlanta, comes after Republicans pushed through a law creating the panel earlier this year. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp pledged when he signed the law that it would curb “far-left prosecutors” who are “making our communities less safe.”

Sherry Boston, the district attorney in the overwhelmingly Democratic Atlanta suburb of DeKalb County and the lead plaintiff, called the issue “bigger than Georgia.”

“We are talking about prosecutorial discretion and prosecutorial independence, both of which have been solidly under assault the last few years,” Boston told The Associated Press.

Like GOP candidates nationwide, Kemp ran anti-crime campaigns in 2022, accusing Democrats of coddling criminals. They are pushing back after some progressive prosecutors have brought fewer drug possession cases and sought shorter prison sentences.

It’s been “incredibly convenient” for Republicans to oppose progressive prosecutors, said University of North Carolina law professor Carissa Hessick, who directs the Prosecutors and Politics Project. Similar efforts have taken place in Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Florida.

“As the progressive prosecution movement gained national prominence, I think it was an easy target for folks on the right, especially once there was an uptick in certain crimes in certain cities,” Hessick said.

The Georgia law raises fundamental questions about prosecutorial discretion. That bedrock of the American judicial system says a prosecutor decides what charges to bring and how heavy of a sentence to seek.

Chris Carr, Georgia’s Republican attorney general, said he would defend the law.

“Unfortunately, some DAs have embraced the progressive movement across the nation of refusing to enforce the law. That is a dereliction of duty, and as a result, Georgia’s communities suffer,” Carr wrote on the X platform, formerly known as Twitter.

Besides Boston, district attorneys challenging Georgia’s law include Flynn Broady of suburban Atlanta’s Cobb County, Jared Williams of Augusta and neighboring Burke County, and Jonathan Adams of Butts, Lamar and Monroe counties south of Atlanta. Adams is a Republican, the others are Democrats.

They say the law oversteps by requiring district attorneys to review every single case on its individual merits. Instead, district attorneys argue they should be able to continue policies rejecting prosecution of whole categories of crimes.

They argue that the governor and the Legislature can’t dictate prosecution rules, because the Georgia Constitution places district attorneys in the state’s judicial branch, making the law violate the constitutional separation of powers. The mandate to examine low-level offenses also distracts prosecutors from more serious crimes, they say.

“This duty is practically unworkable, limiting district attorneys’ ability to define enforcement priorities and approaches and distracting from the prosecution of meritorious cases,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit says the state law will force district attorneys to consider crimes such as adultery, sodomy and fornication. Adams, for example, said that after the law took effect July 1, he revoked his policy requiring magistrates to reject adultery charges.

The law could also require prosecution for possessing small amounts of marijuana, even though the state crime lab refuses to test marijuana seizure less than one ounce (28 grams).

The liberal-leaning group backing the lawsuit says the GOP-backed law creates a bias in favor of prosecutions.

Josh Rosenthal of the Public Rights Project, says the threat of sanctions creates “a one-way preference for always saying yes, the answer is to prosecute or is to prosecute more, regardless of the severity” of a crime.

The plaintiffs also argue that the ban on written or oral policies could block them from sending offenders to diversion programs, which resolve cases without criminal convictions.

The commission to oversee prosecutors isn’t operating yet. But the plaintiffs say the law is ripe for challenge in court now because it already violates free speech rights by blocking prosecutors’ ability to discuss their prosecutorial philosophy with voters.

“This legislation violates the voters’ choice,” Williams said. The people didn’t choose us to be robots with law degrees. They chose us to make the tough decisions that ultimately protect our communities.”

Efforts to control prosecutors in some other states have hit legal obstacles. Last month, a judge struck down Tennessee law allowing the state attorney general to intervene in death penalty cases.

In Florida, a federal judge found Gov. Ron DeSantis illegally targeted Tampa-area prosecutor Andrew Warren because he’s a Democrat who publicly supported abortion and transgender rights. But the state Supreme Court said Andrew Warren waited too long to ask to be reinstated.

United States News

Associated Press

Lawyer picked to prosecute Army sexual assault is fired over an old email doubting victims’ claims

WASHINGTON (AP) — The lawyer selected to be the Army’s first top prosecutor of sexual assaults under an overhaul of the military justice system has been fired because of an email he sent 10 years ago appearing to belittle victims’ assault allegations. Brig. Gen. Warren Wells was removed from the job on Friday by Army […]

15 minutes ago

Associated Press

DeSantis wants to cut 1,000 jobs, but asks for $1 million to sue over Florida State’s football snub

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis recommended Florida eliminate more than 1,000 state jobs in a spending proposal released Tuesday that cuts the current budget by more $4.6 billion while maintaining popular sales tax holidays. DeSantis is calling for a $114.4 billion budget. Unlike most years, the presidential candidate announced his budget far […]

1 hour ago

FILE - Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor poses for a photo in 1982. O'Connor who ...

Associated Press

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor will lie in repose at the Supreme Court on Dec. 18

WASHINGTON (AP) — Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor will lie in repose at the Supreme Court on Dec. 18, with a funeral service at the National Cathedral the following day, the court said Monday. The first woman on the Supreme Court, O’Connor died Friday at age 93 in Phoenix. She stepped down from the court […]

2 hours ago

FILE - Republican presidential candidates from left, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former ...

Associated Press

How to watch the fourth Republican presidential debate and what to look for

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The number of candidates on stage is shrinking, but the fundamentals of Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate may be familiar to anyone who has watched the previous three meetings. No one has yet emerged as the clear Republican alternative to former President Donald Trump, whose lead is so big that he has […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

US makes offer to bring home jailed Americans Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich. Russia rejected it

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration has made a new and significant offer aimed at securing the release of American detainees Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich, but Russia has rejected the offer, the State Department said Tuesday. Spokesman Matthew Miller did not reveal the details of the offer nor why Russia had turned it down, […]

3 hours ago

Actor Jonathan Majors arrives at court for his domestic assault trial, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, in Ne...

Associated Press

Jonathan Majors’ accuser said actor’s “violent temper” left her fearful before alleged assault

NEW YORK (AP) — Jonathan Majors’ former girlfriend told a Manhattan jury that the actor was prone to fits of rage that escalated in the months leading up to his arrest for allegedly attacking her in the backseat of a car last spring. During hours of tearful testimony on Tuesday, Grace Jabbari described Majors as […]

4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Follow @KTAR923...

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.


Midwestern University

Midwestern University: innovating Arizona health care education

Midwestern University’s Glendale Campus near Loop 101 and 59th Avenue is an established leader in health care education and one of Arizona’s largest and most valuable health care resources.



Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.

Georgia prosecutors are suing to strike down a new state law that undermines their authority