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Deal signs bill to restructure judicial watchdog

Gov. Nathan Deal on Monday signed into law legislation that revamps the state’s judicial watchdog agency and gives state lawmakers direct control over its members. 

House Bill 126 eliminates the current Judicial Qualifications Commission and reconstitutes it starting July 1 as a 10-member panel. Seven members will screen complaints against judges and determine whether an investigation is necessary and whether to file formal charges against a judge. 

A separate three-member panel would then decide whether a judge should be punished. 

In recent years, the JQC has removed dozens of jurists from the bench, including one who was caught having a tryst with a local public defender, another who brandished a gun in open court, and a chief judge accused of groping a prosecutor and an investigator.

Critics of the bill say it is lawmakers’ final effort to meddle in what was a constitutionally independent commission. Supporters of the bill, however, say it was necessary to rein in a agency that had misused its power

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The Sine Die 2017 edition of Georgia Legislative Week in Review with Aaron Gould Sheinin, Kristina Torres and the Phrase of the Week by James Salzer. Video by Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com

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