A judge ruled Friday that a new prosecutors disciplinary council can begin investigating complaints on Sunday.
Georgia’s Prosecuting Attorneys Oversight Commission remains intact after Fulton County Judge Paige Reese Whitaker rejected four district attorneys seeking a temporary injunction on the first ever oversight panel for county prosecutors.
The plaintiffs – Democratic DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston, Democratic Augusta District Attorney Jared Williams, Republican Towaliga District Attorney Jonathan Adams and Democratic Cobb County District Attorney Flynn Broady – argued that the oversight commission unconstitutionally undermines the discretion of local prosecutors and the voters who elected them into office. The complaint alleges that the commission restricts district attorneys’ free speech rights under the First Amendment.
At a court hearing on Sept. 18, the four plaintiffs asked the Whitaker not to allow the panel to investigate any complaints while the lawsuit is pending. The judge wrote in her ruling that the plaintiffs alleged injuries appear to be “conjectural or hypothetical.”
Whitaker disagreed with plaintiffs claims that the commission unfairly prevents district attorneys and solicitors general from being protected for performing their official duties under a sovereign immunity law.
“Among other things, the court is persuaded that the Georgia Constitution expressly authorizes the General Assembly to impose duties on district attorneys and to create the grounds and processes to (discipline) or remove district attorneys who fail to meet those legal duties, and that ( 2021 election law) SB 92 does so within the bounds of the state and federal constitutions,” Whitaker wrote in Friday’s ruling.
This spring, the Republican majority legislature passed the oversight law that sparked heated debates. The panel will determine whether a prosecutor has committed willful or prejudicial misconduct, should be punished for not prosecuting low-level offenses or is found to have mental or physical disabilities that impeded their ability to do their job.
But Republicans rejected a similar proposal by Democrats to create such a panel, following the death of Ahmaud Arbery in 2020 and a Republican district attorney accused of preferential treatment toward a former sheriff who was implicated and later convicted in the killing.
Prosecutors were divided over whether the commission is intended to hold them accountable in the same manner as similar oversight panels governing elected sheriffs and judges or if it would target prosecutors for making independent judgments about which cases to pursue.
The commission is expected to take up in short order complaints filed against Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis over her decision to prosecute former president Donald Trump, several of his allies and other Trump supporters for attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit were Democratic DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston, Democratic Augusta District Attorney Jared Williams, Republican Towaliga District Attorney Jonathan Adams and Democratic Cobb County District Attorney Flynn Broady.
This story was originally reported by the Georgia Recorder. The Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: email@example.com. Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.