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Judge upholds DA oversight law

Senate Bill 92, legislation crafted largely by Athens state Rep Houston Gaines and Athens Senator Bill Cowsert, has been upheld by a Georgia judge. The measure, passed in this year’s legislative session and signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp, sets up a Prosecuting Attorneys Qualification Commission.

From WSB TV…

A Georgia judge rejected a request by four district attorneys to block the state’s ability to create, staff, or perform the duties of the newly-created Prosecuting Attorneys Qualification Commission.

The commission is being contested in court by DAs Sherry Boston (Stone Mountain), Jonathan Adams (Towaliga), Jared Williams (Augusta), and Flynn Broady (Cobb).

The four DAs are contesting the newly enacted Senate Bill 92, passed by the Republican-led Georgia legislature in 2022 and aimed at creating a body to conduct “an investigation or disciplinary proceeding” of prosecuting attorneys based on allegations of their duties not being completed.

The attorneys contesting the law say the legislation is unconstitutional and that the commission is likely to be highly politicized.

A judge has now ruled against their motion.

The DAs suing to block the law say they’re disappointed but not discouraged.

“While we are disappointed that our motion was denied, this is just the beginning of what we expect will be a long legal battle. We look forward to presenting our full arguments against this dangerous and undemocratic law. We intend to continue our fight for prosecutorial independence and the voters who elected us all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court,” DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston said in a statement.

In the judge’s ruling, the order to deny was given based on the plaintiffs’ assertion “that the legislature has overstepped its authority in violation of Georgia’s Separation of Powers doctrine,” and the DAs’ allegations that the commission’s existence would violate both state and federal free speech and due process rights of the attorneys.

The court denied the request saying that the attorneys have failed to show a recognized injury caused by the law’s passage, saying that the harms they’re alleging from the commission appear to be conjecture, and not based on a present set of facts.

The judge wrote that the commission’s potential to harm the attorneys has not occurred because the commission has not yet actively performed its duties.

The judge also said the commission should be allowed to perform the duties of their position with the presumption of constitutionality and that the attorneys suing to block the law have not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of their case.

State attorneys defending the law in court have made similar statements regarding the alleged potential for harm to prosecutors.

“There is no imminent harm because there’s nothing that the commission has done to show otherwise,” attorney Josh Belinfante told Channel 2′s Richard Elliot in a previous interview.

The commission is now starting to hire a director.

On Aug. 4, Georgia Lt. Gov. Burt Jones announced a set of appointees to the PAQC, which included Coweta DA Herb Cranford and others.

The job listing for the commission director was posted Friday. Due to the ongoing lawsuit, Cranford said the commission would not be providing further comment on the position.

“All Georgians deserve to be safe, and it’s a District Attorney’s duty to enforce the law. When elected prosecutors fail to do so, crime goes up and victims are denied justice. This decision from the Court reaffirms that District Attorneys who choose to violate their oaths will not be immune from accountability,” Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said in a statement.

Tim Bryant

Tim Bryant

Tim Bryant hosts Classic City Today, 6-10 weekday mornings on 98.7FM & AM 1340 WGAU in Athens.

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