Judge declines DeKalb grand jurors’ request to be dismissed

A Fulton County judge on Tuesday ruled against special purpose grand jurors in DeKalb County who had sued their presiding judge seeking their release from duty.

In a two-page ruling, Fulton Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney said he could not rule in the grand jurors’ favor because the DeKalb District Attorney’s Office has filed a separate appeal in the same case to the Georgia Supreme Court.

The special grand jury took months investigating the awarding and management of contracts by DeKalb’s Department of Watershed Management. Its 81-page report, completed in January, remains under seal because Scott ruled that lawyers for now-suspended CEO Burrell Ellis and consultant Kevin Ross could review the report prior to it becoming public.

Lawyers for Ellis, who now stands indicted, and Ross said they should be allowed to seek the expungement of any passages in the report that may be unfairly prejudicial.

The DeKalb DA’s office is appealing that decision by Scott to the Georgia Supreme Court, which has yet to decide if whether to consider the issue.

McBurney indicated that he would have ordered the grand jurors’ release if the DA’s appeal was no longer pending.

Under a plain reading of the law, the grand jurors “are long overdue such basic relief and courtesy,” McBurney wrote. But they “are already pursuing this same end — release from service — by way of appeal.”

Separately, without explaining why, McBurney declined to grant Scott’s request that the special grand jurors’ lawsuit against Scott be dismissed.

A spokesman for the DeKalb DA’s office, which is representing the grand jurors, declined to comment on McBurney’s ruling.

Attorney Gary Freed, who represents Scott, said, “We believe that the petition should be dismissed, but appreciate Judge McBurney’s perspective on the matter.”

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