Georgia Supreme Court Blocks Republican-backed Prosecutors Oversight Board
Tuesday, November 28th, 2023
The Georgia Supreme Court Wednesday halted attempts to move forward with a new oversight board for local prosecutors the General Assembly’s Republican majorities created this year.
In a six-page ruling, the justices declined to review rules and regulations for the Professional Attorneys Qualifications Commission as required by Senate Bill 92, which lawmakers passed along party lines in March and GOP Gov. Brian Kemp signed in May.
“We have grave doubts that adopting the standards and rules would be within our constitutional power,” the court wrote. “Accordingly, we respectfully decline to take any action regarding the commission’s draft standards of conduct and rules for the commission’s governance.”
The legislature created the oversight commission to investigate complaints lodged against local prosecutors and potentially discipline or remove the target of a complaint on a variety of grounds including mental or physical incapacity, willful misconduct or failure to perform the duties of the office, conviction of a crime of moral turpitude, or conduct that brings the office into disrepute.
Republican legislators pushed the measure as a way to sanction prosecutors in Georgia cities led by Democrats who they said were reluctant to prosecute certain crimes, notably during the civil unrest that followed the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis by a white police officer in 2020.
Legislative Democrats countered that the bill would let an unelected commission usurp the will of local voters in elections of district attorneys.
There was no immediate response from Republicans to Wednesday’s ruling, which came on the afternoon before a long holiday weekend. But GOP legislative leaders could get around the decision by amending the law during this winter’s General Assembly session to remove the provision requiring the Georgia Supreme Court to review the commission’s rules.
Meanwhile, a lawsuit challenging the law filed in Fulton County Superior County in August by three Democratic district attorneys and one Republican D.A. remains pending.