Fulton DA’s office backs off push to disqualify attorney for GOP electors

Prosecutors say their concerns were addressed by decision to drop two clients
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks during a Court Watch event at Atlanta City Hall, Tuesday, May 2, 2023, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks during a Court Watch event at Atlanta City Hall, Tuesday, May 2, 2023, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis on Wednesday backed off a push to disqualify the attorney jointly representing eight Georgia Republicans who served as “alternate” presidential electors for Donald Trump in 2020.

In a new court filing, Willis indicated she was dropping a complaint she’d lodged against Kimberly Bourroughs Debrow last month. She said her concerns were effectively addressed after two of Debrow’s previous clients, who had not been offered immunity deals by prosecutors, hired new lawyers.

“As all of Ms. Debrow’s remaining clients have accepted immunity offers from the state, her representation of multiple clients no longer creates the conflict that gave rise to the state’s concern,” Willis said, effectively rendering her previous motion “moot.”

Attorney Kimberly Bourroughs Debrow. (Photo courtesy of Debrow.)

Credit: Guest

icon to expand image

Credit: Guest

A Willis spokesman declined to comment further. Debrow said the DA’s office had “wrongfully accused me of unethical conduct while fully knowing that it was untrue.”

“The non-immunized electors began hiring new counsel on my advice well before the DA filed her frivolous motion,” Debrow said in a written statement. “The better use of taxpayer dollars would have been to first confirm the facts.”

The DA is investigating whether Trump and his allies unlawfully meddled in Georgia’s 2020 election and has said she will announce her decision about criminal charges this summer. All 16 of the Republicans who posed as Georgia’s legitimate Electoral College voters were sent “target” letters by prosecutors last summer alerting them that they could be charged with crimes.

Last month, Willis argued that Debrow’s unusual joint representation for what was then 10 GOP electors had become an “impracticable and ethical mess.” The Democrat lodged several explosive allegations against Debrow, including that the lawyer didn’t inform her clients of potential immunity deals that were floated by prosecutors last summer — an offense that, if proven true, would constitute a serious ethical breach..

“It is unfathomable how Ms. Debrow can offer competent and adequate counsel to her client who has been accused of further crimes,” prosecutors argued in their April 18 filing. “(A)ny claim of all 10 of her clients being similarly situated has gone out the window.”

Debrow vehemently fought the allegations. In her response late last week, the Newnan-based attorney provided previously signed statements from her clients confirming that they were informed about immunity — and potential immunity — offers.

Debrow also confirmed that she was currently only representing eight GOP electors, all of whom now have immunity deals in place, and that two others who were not given such offers had found legal representation elsewhere. Court filings from the DA’s office and Debrow have not identified which electors have been granted immunity in exchange for their testimony.

In her filing, Debrow fired off a series of serious accusations of her own about the conduct of Nathan Wade, the special prosecutor overseeing the criminal investigation in the Fulton DA’s office. She asked prosecutors to reimburse her for the time she spent putting together the reply.

Debrow’s legal fees are being paid for, at least in part, by the state Republican Party. Since mid-2022, the Georgia GOP has paid her law firm roughly $257,000, public filings show.

Anthony Michael Kreis, a Georgia State University law professor who is closely following the case, called most of the GOP electors “low level dupes” but he noted not all of them are on equal legal footing.

”My guess is that the DA is focusing and honing in on the electors who weren’t offered immunity, such as (state Republican Party Chairman) David Shafer, and deciding whether to try and flip them to get them to testify against higher-ups or just make them defendants.”

Still, Kreis said, the DA’s motion does not resolve some of the allegations the office made against Debrow — including that months ago she didn’t disclose immunity deals to some of her clients.

“While we still don’t know who is right or who is wrong — or if the truth lies somewhere in between — I can’t imagine that anyone in the DA’s office or Debrow herself is unhappy this has been put behind them,” Kreis said.

The filing on Wednesday is the latest twist in the legal drama playing out over Georgia’s “fake” electors.

On Monday, lawyers for Shafer provided The Atlanta Journal-Constitution with a copy of a letter sent to Willis, which argued the outgoing Georgia party chair broke no laws and was following legal advice when he acted as an alternate elector.