Georgia Officials Threaten Fani Willis
Kemp and other officials fight lawful indictments through a new law that allows removing prosecutors by “oversight commission”
Update, September 3, 2023. A recently passed Georgia law is designed to kill prosecutions through an eight-member commission with the power of removing prosecutors they don’t like. The bill was not voted on by the people of Georgia, but was passed by the majority Republican House and Senate, and signed into law on May 5th of this year by Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp.
Correction; Edit. Just after publishing I got an email from Garrison Douglas, Press Secretary for the Office of the Governor in Georgia. In it he politely corrects my quote in the first version of this article, where I mistakenly said that Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said the newly-formed committee would “take action” against District Attorney Willis.
I consulted The Atlantic Journal Constitution article, and the quote was actually from Georgia Senator Clint Dixon: “Once the Prosecutorial Oversight Committee is appointed in October, we can have them investigate and take action against Fani Willis and her efforts that weaponize the justice system against political opponents,” the Buford Republican [Dixon] said in a social media post.” The article continues to say that [the legislation] “passed this year, mostly along party lines, at the urging of Kemp and Republican Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, a Trump supporter whose candidacy last year was backed by the former president.”
According to an article in Fox 5, Atlanta, and further reporting of unindicted co-conspirators by The Hill, then-Georgia state Sen. Jones was one of the so-called fake electors who tried to give Georgia’s 16 electoral votes to former president Donald Trump instead of President Joe Biden, and Burt Jones is listed as one of the unindicted co-conspirators.
Because of a conflict of interest, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis was ordered not to include Jones in any possible prosecution.
Douglas added that it does not “square with” the current status of the commission. Kemp replaced former press secretary Katie Byrd in January of this year with Douglas, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
Among the many political stories coming out of Georgia, the newest one is a threat by Georgia Senator Clint Dixon to use a recent Georgia law to protect those criminally charged in the Fulton County RICO case by removing Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. Governor Kemp and Republican sponsors of the bill said it was designed to pursue “rogue prosecutors” who were ignoring their duties or flouting the law, avoiding overt mention of Willis.
In a Facebook post, Georgia Senator Clint Dixon acknowledged the “reality” of the Trump indictment in Georgia, and admitted that Trump is “is one of the reasons we passed a law,” tacitly admitting they changed the law, at least in part to defeat prosecutions against Trump and Trump allies. Organizations opposed say the law is unconstitutional for Georgia and the United States Constitution.
In Georgia, some legislators or other public officials may be subject to a second wave of prosecutions for illegal activities around Trump’s loss in 2020. Others may have skeletons rattling around closets they don’t want Willis’ office to be digging through. But mostly it’s about power, as more recent Georgia elections show that many Georgians are fed up with the Republican party, as the state shows signs of turning purple. The law that allows prosecutors to be removed by an “oversight commission” is being tested now.
The law puts discipline and removal of prosecutors in the hands of a commission made up of political appointees
Edit: From Bing Chat: “In Georgia, the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia is responsible for investigating and prosecuting prosecutors. The council is an independent state agency that is responsible for providing training and technical assistance to prosecutors in Georgia. It also has the power to investigate complaints against prosecutors and to recommend disciplinary action when necessary.” * End of Chat.
The law puts discipline and removal of prosecutors in the hands of a commission made up of political appointees, allowing the commission to discipline prosecutors for decisions based on any policy, written or otherwise, to not prosecute certain offenses, like low-level drug possession or sex work. But the broad language includes any decisons prosecutors make that legislators may not like. Under this law, prosecutors can be “disciplined” or even removed by the commission, and leave them disqualified from running again for 10 years.
Traditionally prosecutors are independent from the executive and legislative branches, making decisions on which cases to prosecute and how to prosecute them. But Georgia officials have openly admitted they passed the law, signed by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp last May, at least in part to remove Fani Willis because of her prosecution of Trump and his co-conspirators. Vanity Fair reported yesterday that in a Facebook post earlier this week, State Senator Clint Dixon accused the DA of prosecuting the ex-president to become “some sort of leftist celebrity,” leading calls for removal of the popular District Attorney.
Willis won the election for District Attorney in Fulton County in 2020 with 71.7% of the vote, and took office in January 2021. The position of District Attorney is a non-partisan position, and Willis has shown herself to be both progressive on low-level crimes and diversion programs, but tough on violent criminals.
Right now Georgia Senator Shawn Still is charged in the false elector scheme in the RICO case for impersonating a public officer, forgery, and criminally attempting to file false documents. All three are felonies under Georgia law. Georgia is a “trifecta” state, with the Governor, House, and Senate all Republican majority.
Temporary Injunction. I first caught this story two days ago in The Intercept, which noted “The new Georgia law is one of close to 40 similar measures introduced in a third of states since 2017 that target prosecutors implementing popular criminal justice reforms.” The recent efforts to subvert the authority of elected prosecutors “have been largely driven by white Republican lawmakers in gerrymandered states against Black Democrats in the liberal islands of cities,” according to Jill Habig, executive director of the Public Rights Project, which won a temporary injunction against the bill to prevent interference in cases that are currently pending, such as the RICO case against Trump, et.al.
The Public Rights Project is a bipartisan group of prosecutors who see the move as an attempt to thwart the will of the people who voted for Willis in 2020, and a part of a larger move by state legislatures to use legislative powers against prosecutors who dare to prosecute cases they don’t like — or people they do like. Right now, four district attorneys in Georgia are asking a judge to strike down the law that is right now creating a commission to discipline and remove state prosecutors, arguing it violates the U.S. and Georgia constitutions.
Despite Trump’s false claims, violent crimes in Atlanta have gone down by 25% this year, and had gone down by 12% the previous year, as Willis tackled the backlog of cases. Others note that Willis’ RICO case against the YSL gang members, notably Jeffrey Lamar Williams, aka “Young Thug” has had a chilling effect on gang violence and gang crime in Atlanta, which is 90% located in Fulton County.
Dixon has been using Donald Trump as a banner for this law that is designed to remove prosecutors legislatively, but an Amendment, known as Amendment 1 was passed in Georgia by 88.48% of all voters in the state, who decided that a state official indicted for a felony would not be paid. Further, Georgia laws have statutes than can suspend public officials from their duties, and/or make them ineligible to hold public office.
Dixon and other Republicans seeking to remove Fani Willis by an appointed committee is an attempt to thwart the law, skirt the law, and thwart the voices of Georgia voters under the cover of a Trump banner.
Governor Kemp, who spearheaded, or at least promoted, the “committee” law to remove prosecutors by an “oversight commission” despite the will of voters, is also in charge of appointing a three-member panel to review the question of whether alleged co-conspirator and Georgia Senator Shawn Still should be suspended. That panel will include Republican Attorney General Chris Carr, one member from the Georgia House of Representatives and one member of the Senate, within 14 days of the Governor receiving the indictment. That date for the appointment of the committee is August 30. Under Georgia law, Still could be suspended from the Senate while the case is pending.
Republican Attorney General Chris Carr has testified before the Fulton County grand jury about a 15-minute phone call from then-President Trump in December of 2020. In his testimony he said that Trump had called him to ask him to stop opposing a lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton seeking to throw out millions of votes from all four states, calling it “constitutionally, legally and factually wrong.”
However, when it comes to the decision about suspending Senator Still it is ultimately up to Governor Kemp, making the panel decision a political, not legal, decision.
If the commission determines the indictment “relates to or adversely affects” the administration of Still’s office, and the public is adversely affected, state law says the governor “shall suspend the public official immediately.”
Still, under the Georgia constitution may be ineligible to run for office and/or suspended from office. Other officials in Georgia State might be looking at more charges in a possible second round of prosecutions, and that has some nervous. The public officials who can be suspended for crimes include any member of the General Assembly, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, State School Superintendent, Commissioner of Insurance, Commissioner of Agriculture, or Commissioner of Labor.
This move by the Republican legislators to remove Willis by committee is a sleazy ploy to politicize the lawful indictments against Trump and his co-conspirators. The extra bonus, if they succeed in removing Willis, just happens to be that any criminal activity which Georgia public officials may be charged with may magically be removed by committee by firing or threatening a prosecutor with firing.
Dixon and other Republicans seeking to remove Fani Willis is an attempt to thwart the law, skirt the law, and thwart the voices of Georgia voters under the cover of a Trump banner.
Kemp’s Fake Elector Problem in Georgia’s Bill 92
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