The Georgia Senate voted in favor of a bill that would allow a new commission to investigate complaints against prosecutors across the state. The bill, which was passed mostly along party lines, has drawn criticism from some Democrats who say it is aimed at interfering with the prosecution of former President Donald Trump.
What is the bill and why is it controversial?
The bill, known as Senate Bill 332, would enable the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission to operate under rules that it adopted without requiring a final review by the Georgia Supreme Court. The commission, which was created by a law signed by Governor Brian Kemp last year, would have the power to review allegations of misconduct filed against district attorneys and solicitor generals, who are the chief prosecutors in each county.
The commission would consist of 12 members appointed by the governor, the lieutenant governor, the speaker of the House, and other majority party leaders. The commission would have the authority to suspend, remove, or discipline prosecutors for violating the rules of professional conduct or the law.
Some Democrats have opposed the bill, arguing that it would undermine the independence and accountability of local prosecutors, who are elected by the people. They have also suggested that the bill is motivated by political reasons, as it could potentially affect the prosecution of Trump by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.
Willis, a Democrat, is investigating Trump for his attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, which he lost to Joe Biden by about 12,000 votes. Willis has said that she is looking into possible charges of election fraud, racketeering, and solicitation of election fraud against Trump and his allies.
What did the supporters and opponents of the bill say?
The supporters of the bill, mostly Republicans, have denied that the bill is targeting Willis or any specific prosecutor. They have said that the bill is intended to hold prosecutors to the same standards as other officers of the court, such as judges and lawyers, who are subject to oversight by similar commissions.
They have also said that the bill would provide more recourse for victims, witnesses, and defendants who are dissatisfied with the decisions or actions of prosecutors, such as declining to prosecute certain cases, offering lenient plea deals, or engaging in unethical or illegal behavior.
One of the sponsors of the bill, Senator Randy Robertson, a Republican and a former law enforcement officer, said that the bill was not about Willis or Trump, but about ensuring fairness and justice for all.
“This has never been about the district attorney from Fulton County,” Robertson said on the Senate floor. “All we’re trying to do is hold every officer of the court to the same standard. It’s what’s right.”
The opponents of the bill, mostly Democrats, have argued that the bill is unnecessary and dangerous, as it would create a partisan and unaccountable commission that could interfere with the discretion and authority of prosecutors, who are answerable to the voters and the courts.
They have also argued that the bill is a thinly veiled attempt to intimidate and influence Willis and other prosecutors who may pursue cases against Trump or other Republicans.
One of the critics of the bill, Senator Jen Jordan, a Democrat and a lawyer, said that the bill was a “power grab” by the Republicans, who are unhappy with the outcome of the 2020 election and the actions of Willis.
“This is about politics. This is about power. This is about control,” Jordan said on the Senate floor. “This is about trying to stop a duly elected district attorney from doing her job.”
What are the next steps for the bill?
The bill, which was passed by the Senate on Tuesday, now advances to the House, where a similar bill was passed last month. The two chambers will have to agree on one version of the bill before it can be sent to the governor for his signature.
The governor, who is a Republican and a former secretary of state, has not publicly commented on the bill or indicated whether he would sign it or veto it. However, he has previously expressed his support for the creation of the commission, saying that it would enhance the integrity and professionalism of the state’s prosecutors.
The bill, if signed into law, would take effect immediately, allowing the commission to start its work as soon as possible. However, the bill could also face legal challenges, as some have questioned its constitutionality and compatibility with the existing oversight mechanisms for prosecutors.