Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp could sign measure to give state new power over DAs
Published in News & Features
ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp could soon sign a measure to create a state board with powers to punish or even oust local district attorneys as Republicans seek sweeping oversight over prosecutors they accuse of skirting their duties.
The House voted 97-77 on Monday to approve legislation to create the panel, and the Senate is expected to follow suit. Kemp and other GOP leaders have advocated for the bill to sanction “rogue prosecutors” they see as ineffective or inept.
The overhaul was approved over the objections of top state Democrats and prominent district attorneys who are concerned the legislation would allow prosecutors to be removed for broad reasons, such as “willful misconduct” and “persistent failure” to follow the law.
Among the leading critics is Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who has framed the proposal as racist and retaliatory. Willis’ allies see it as retribution for her ongoing probe into whether former President Donald Trump violated state laws by meddling with the 2020 election.
“Whether intended or not, the majority of the world” will see it as a reaction to the investigation of Trump, said state Rep. Tanya Miller, an Atlanta Democrat and former prosecutor. She called it a “power grab by the majority to usurp the will of the voters.”
Supporters of Senate Bill 92 say it has nothing to do with Willis’ investigation and note that key Democrats backed a similar measure several years ago. They instead point to a series of prosecutors from both parties who either resigned from office or face scrutiny of their conduct.
The measure is expected to soon become law, so long as the Senate gives final approval. Kemp and Lt. Gov. Burt Jones have both endorsed the idea, and nearly two dozen prosecutors recently signed a letter backing the creation of the panel.
Indeed, it is Athens-Clarke County District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez — and not Willis — who has emerged as a prime example for supporters of the overhaul. Her name is frequently invoked by Republicans who say she’s neglected her office and allowed serious crimes to go unpunished.
“There’s issue after issue after issue,” state Rep. Houston Gaines, an Athens Republican, said of Gonzalez. “The whole point of the bill is to restore public safety in places where you have rogue district attorneys who aren’t doing their job.”
Her critics point to a recent legal action targeting Gonzalez that includes a letter signed by four local judges who plead for her help with rather mundane legal matters, such as providing discovery and witness lists and coordinating with law enforcement.
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