For The Record

GOP-controlled Georgia House pushes through bill to create oversight of county prosecutors

By: - March 6, 2023 10:10 pm

Georgia Republicans are backing legislation that would have the Georgia Supreme Court appoint panels that would oversee complaints filed against county prosectors for allegations of misconduct. Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder

Georgia’s GOP-controlled House passed controversial legislation 98-75 late on Tuesday’s Crossover Day that would establish oversight boards that could remove district attorneys deemed to neglect select prosecutions.

Dallas Republican Rep. Joseph Gullett’s House Bill 231 would require the Georgia Supreme Court to appoint five-member investigation panels and three-member hearing panels that will determine disciplinary consequences for prosecutors who decline to prosecute low-level offenses. 

Among the grounds for removing district attorneys and solicitor generals are willful and prejudicial misconduct or being found to have mental or physical disabilities that impede their abilities to prosecute cases.

The Senate advanced a similar bill last week, with Republican lawmakers supporting the measures opposed by prosecuting and district attorney associations.

Democratic legislators have questioned the necessity of an oversight committee that can target the discretion prosecutors already have to determine the merits of cases and pointed out that district attorneys can already face disciplinary measures if they have breached duties.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is pursuing a probe of former President Donald Trump, has complained the legislation is an overreaction.

“Their prosecutorial discretion is vital to allowing our locally elected D.A.’s to examine the specific facts of each case when deciding if and how to prosecute, and that’s threatened under this bill,” Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick, a Lithonia Democrat, said.

Gullett defended the measure by stating that the state Supreme Court would review any disciplinary action related to complaints filed and subsequent panel decisions.

“This is not a partisan issue in my mind regarding who’s acting in bad faith as a D.A.,” he said hours before Monday’s deadline for legislation to advance to the opposite chamber.  “This is vitally important to communities who have district attorneys who are bad actors and not prosecuting cases or doing things illegally, and ultimately just bringing really really bad light to their offices.”

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Stanley Dunlap
Stanley Dunlap

Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo.