Republican legislators in Georgia are passing a law setting conditions to remove an elected by the people prosecutor who is likely to indict many of the legislators voting for that law. If that sounds too banana republic to be true, I assure you it is true.
The Bill (click on “Current Version”) has had versions of it passed by both the Georgia House and Senate where Republicans enjoy a super majority. Here’s the gist of it.
An eight member board is appointed by the Georgia Supreme Court. The Georgia Supreme Court is elected state wide, and they are generally very conservative. The Chief Justice is on record as opposing gay marriage and abortion rights.
Five members of the board will investigate alleged “prosecutorial misconduct” and three will rule on cases suggested by the other five. The three member hearings board will have the authority to remove duly elected by the people prosecutors. To describe the basis for removal as undefined, incredibly broad, and allowing for political considerations, is to be kind. Grounds for removal include:
- Willful misconduct (not defined by the bill). Section (h)(2).
- Conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the office into disrepute (also not defined by the bill). Section (h)(5). This is a “catch all” provision that eliminates any meaningful restrictions.
So if three members of this panel appointed by a very conservative state Supreme Court decides that indicting a dozen or so Republican state legislators is conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice (whatever that means) that brings the office into disrepute (whatever that means), those three people can summarily remove a duly elected prosecutor from office.
Perhaps you think that a prosecutorial decision to indict legislators cannot form the basis under the statute to remove a prosecutor, and kill the prosecution. You would be wrong. Per Section (i)(2)(a) a complaint related to a charging decision cannot be considered (good news) unless the complaint alleges . . . “undue bias.” Yes, “undue bias” is not defined either, so that is an exception that eliminates the restriction. Yeehaw.
For the record, this bill has two principle purposes.
- Remove progressive prosecutors who have stated they will not criminally prosecute under the state’s draconian antiabortion law.
- Remove Fani Willis, the Fulton County (Atlanta) prosecutor who is likely preparing to secure a grand jury indictment against numerous state Republicans, and Donald Trump, for criminal attempts to reverse Georgia’s 2020 Presidential election vote.
The law has one other significant provision. Currently Georgia prosecutors can be subject to a recall vote if a petition to do so gathers signatures from 30% of the voters in their district. This bill would reduce that over 93% to just 2%. The clear intent is to intimidate prosecutors with the risk of a recall election if even an ultra-super minority of voters seek one. Fani Willis overwhelmingly won her election with 72% of the vote. But if just 7% of the few that voted against her sign a recall petition, she would be subject to a recall vote.
Notably, this massive reduction in the recall threshold applies only to local prosecutors. It does not apply to the governor, and it does not apply to the Republican legislators who vote to make it apply to the prosecutors who may prosecute them.
Fani Willis has had her own comments about this describing them as racist because the clear impact would be on black and minority prosecutors.
Georgia is now known as the “Peach State.” It is becoming a Banana State.