An investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News found that Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston used his elected position to delay hearings and court dates for clients of his law practice.
Those delays have tied up cases for clients charged with child cruelty, drunken driving, assault, terroristic threats and other crimes.
Here is a summary of things to know about the AJC-Channel 2 investigation and continuing coverage:
Ralston, a Republican who represents House District 7 in addition to being speaker, has a law practice in his hometown of Blue Ridge in North Georgia.
Asked to respond to the AJC’s findings, Ralston declined to be interviewed by the AJC. However, in an interview with Channel 2, he said he had not misused the law. “To say that I’m thwarting justice and that I’m putting the public at risk, those are things that are completely not me,” he told the station.
Under a state law dating to 1905, judges and prosecutors must defer to the legislative schedule of any practicing attorney who serves in the General Assembly. Other attorney-lawmakers, though, are mainly relegated to claiming the exemption during the annual 40-day legislative sessions.
As House speaker, Ralston, who practices law in the rural, mountainous counties of North Georgia, can claim conflicts year-round. In 21 cases examined by the AJC and Channel 2 in four counties over a two-year period, he filed 57 requests for continuances.
The AJC also reported that Ralston played a role in a 2006 bill expanding the legislative privilege law. In 2006, lawmakers in the House and Senate passed Senate Bill 503, which expanded the privilege to cover any time a lawmaker’s “presence elsewhere is required,” the AJC reported.
The full stories from the AJC-Channel 2 investigation and reaction to it are linked from this article.
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