Georgia District Attorneys Seek to Strike Down Newly-Created Prosecutorial Oversight Commission

Georgia District Attorneys don’t want anyone else to exercise discretion over their exercise of discretion. Four Georgia district attorneys are asking a judge to “strike down a law creating a commission to discipline and remove state prosecutors.” The group of district attorneys assert that such oversight and concomitant power to discipline and remove state prosecutors “violates the U.S. and state constitutions.”

The legal challenge was filed Wednesday in Fulton County Superior Court in Atlanta. The prosecutors’ effort to eliminate the Georgia’s Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission is a counter move to the success of the Republicans who pushed through a law creating the panel earlier this year. Providing perspective for justifying the legislation creating the Commission, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp pledged when he signed the law that it would curb “far-left prosecutors” who are “making our communities less safe.”

Sherry Boston, is the district attorney in the Atlanta suburb of DeKalb County. The County is described as “overwhelmingly Democratic.” Boston is the lead plaintiff challenging the law. In a statement to The Associated Press, Boston categorized the legislation as “bigger than Georgia.” Boston framed her opposition to the Commission is broad terms: “We are talking about prosecutorial discretion and prosecutorial independence, both of which have been solidly under assault the last few years.”

Reporting has offered context to the history of this legislation and the issue of prosecutorial oversight. “Republicans nationwide are pushing back on a sea change in prosecution.” Republicans have been identified as the group that seek to constrict “some progressive prosecutors” because they have declined to prosecute crimes including marijuana possession and have sought to lessen long prison sentences.”

Reporting asserts that “Kemp and other Georgia GOP candidates, like those nationwide, ran anti-crime campaigns in 2022, accusing Democrats of coddling criminals.

Additional background is offered here. “Carissa Hessick, a University of North Carolina law professor who directs the Prosecutors and Politics Project, said that especially where crime has risen, it’s been “incredibly convenient” for Republicans to oppose progressive prosecutors. As reported, “Other efforts to rein in prosecutors have taken place in Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Florida.”

The issue is significant and complex. “Georgia law raises fundamental questions about prosecutorial discretion,” which is asserted to be a “bedrock of the American judicial system that says a prosecutor gets to decide what cases to try or reject, what charges to bring, and how heavy of a sentence to seek.”

The prosecutors alleged in their lawsuit “that the duty to review every case violates the separation of powers in the Georgia Constitution, which places district attorneys in the state’s judicial branch.” The prosecutors claim “considering every case will force prosecutors to waste time examining low-level offenses, draining limited resources from more serious prosecutions.”

Additional details of the lawsuit against the Commission legislation includes the other district attorneys challenging Georgia’s law: “Flynn Broady of suburban Cobb County, Jared Williams, whose circuit covers Augusta and neighboring Burke County, and Jonathan Adams, whose circuit covers Butts, Lamar and Monroe counties south of Atlanta.” Referenced is the fact that “Adams is a Republican; the others are Democrats.”

D & B Staff

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