UNITED STATES NEWS

Georgia lawmakers advance bill to revive disciplinary commission for state prosecutors

Jan 22, 2024, 3:12 PM

ATLANTA (AP) — Republicans in the Georgia House of Representatives on Monday advanced a bill that would revive a new state commission to discipline and remove state prosecutors.

Some Georgia Republicans want the new commission to discipline or remove Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis for winning indictments of former President Donald Trump and 18 others.

Though Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation last year creating the new commission, it was unable to begin operating after the state Supreme Court in November refused to approve rules governing its conduct. Justices said they had “grave doubts” about their ability to regulate the duties of district attorneys beyond the practice of law. Because lawmakers hadn’t expressly ordered justices to act, they were refusing to rule one way or the other, they said.

A bill in the state House of Representatives removes the requirement that the state Supreme Court approve the rules. It also raises the standard for overturning a decision by the commission.

A House committee passed it on Monday over the objections of Democrats. It now goes to the full House for a vote.

“This is just making the commission workable,” state Rep. Joseph Gullett, a Republican from Dallas, told members of a House judiciary committee.

Committee member Shea Roberts, an Atlanta Democrat, said removing the state Supreme Court’s oversight took away any sense that the bill was nonpartisan.

“It’s purely partisan now,” she said.

Democrats on the committee proposed an amendment giving their party the power to appoint some of the commission members, but it was rejected. The bill gave Republicans control over all eight appointments to the commission.

Georgia’s law creating the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission is one of multiple attempts nationwide by Republicans to control prosecutors they don’t like. Republicans have inveighed against progressive prosecutors after some have brought fewer drug possession cases and sought shorter prison sentences, arguing Democrats are coddling criminals.

In Georgia, four district attorneys are suing to overturn the commission, arguing that it unconstitutionally infringes on their power.

Gullett defended the commission.

“At the end of the day, there are Republican DAs out there who haven’t done the right thing sometimes and there’s some Democrat DAs who haven’t done the right thing sometimes,” he said.

Also on Monday, Georgia Republican state Sen. Greg Dolezal announced that he wanted to create a special Senate committee to investigate Willis, separate from the commission.

Dolezal said in a statement that a “thorough and impartial examination” would “ensure transparency, accountability and the preservation of the integrity of our justice system.”

The Associated Press sent email and text messages to a spokesperson for Willis, Jeff DiSantis.

Dolezal’s proposed resolution suggests that legal or budgetary changes could follow any inquiry. The resolution would have to win approval in the Republican-majority state Senate before any panel could be appointed.

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Georgia lawmakers advance bill to revive disciplinary commission for state prosecutors