The bipartisan coalition of prosecutors challenging the new Georgia law that gives the state powers to sanction or oust district attorneys is getting key backup.
The Institute for Innovation in Prosecution at the John Jay College filed a brief in support of the challenge to Senate Bill 92, which Gov. Brian Kemp and other Republicans pitched as a way to punish “rogue” prosecutors who don’t enforce state laws.
In addition, a bipartisan group of more than 80 current and former prosecutors added their voices in a legal filing that contends the law creating the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission illegally infringes on prosecutorial discretion, undermines local control and erodes faith in the criminal justice system.
The pair of motions serve as reminders that the controversy over the new law extends beyond whether it could be deployed against Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. She’s a likely target of the commission once it begins work in October because of her election interference case against former President Donald Trump and 18 others.
The Institute for Innovation in Prosecution cautioned the oversight commission could penalize prosecutors for keeping campaign promises about their approach to enforcing Georgia laws — and that it could have a chilling effect that threatens the judiciary’s independence.
In the 27-page brief, the institute warned the new law could discourage prosecutors from seeking ways to “reform imperfect systems in a manner that best serves justice and the public interest.”
The group of prosecutors, which includes former U.S. Solicitor Generals Charles Fried and Seth Waxman, make a similar case that the law raises questions about the fairness of the justice system that could undermine public safety.
“If allowed to stand it has the potential to do tremendous damage to Georgia’s criminal justice system,” their brief reads, “while also promoting mischief in other parts of the nation.”
Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC
Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC
LEGAL BRIEFS. Georgia’s courts were teeming on Tuesday with headline-grabbing news. Here’s a glimpse:
- All 19 defendants who were indicted in Fulton County on election interference charges have pleaded not guilty and waived arraignments that had been scheduled for Wednesday, Tamar Hallerman writes.
- More than five dozen activists were indicted on RICO charges last week over the ongoing efforts to halt construction of the city of Atlanta’s planned public safety training center, writes Jozsef Papp and Shaddi Abusaid.
- A federal judge reinstated Georgia’s law banning certain hormone therapies for transgender minors while it’s being challenged by the families of transgender children, Maya T. Prabhu reports. U.S. District Judge Sarah E. Geraghty initially put Georgia’s law on hold but has now reversed that decision based on precedent in an Alabama case.
- A two-week trial that could lead to an overhaul of Georgia’s political map opened as lawyers sparred over whether the current boundaries illegally dilute the Black vote, Mark Niesse reports. Meanwhile, a panel of federal judges rejected a new congressional map drawn by legislators in Alabama and criticized lawmakers for refusing to comply with a court order to create a second district where Black voters could comprise a majority.
LISTEN UP. We’re diving into the potential fallout from the legal challenge to Georgia’s congressional maps in our midweek edition of the Politically Georgia podcast. We’re also unpacking the latest heated rhetoric from a pro-Trump provocateur, state Sen. Colton Moore, and previewing what else lies ahead in another busy week of #gapol.
Listen on Apple, Spotify, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.
Credit: Christina Matacotta for the AJC
Credit: Christina Matacotta for the AJC
RICO BY THE DOZEN. While on the subject of legal matters, some of the same liberals who cheered the Fulton County racketeering charges against former President Donald Trump and his allies lamented that Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr deployed the same statute to charge dozens of activists who seek to block the construction of Atlanta’s public safety complex.
Former state Sen. Jen Jordan, a Democrat who lost to Carr in last year’s midterm, issued a pointed reminder that laws on the books can be a double-edged sword.
“This just serves to illustrate that Georgia has the most far-reaching RICO statute in the country,” she said of the state’s anti-racketeering laws. “And they can be used by prosecutors in very different situations.”
Fair Fight, the voting rights organization founded by Stacey Abrams, issued a statement calling the state RICO charges “a harm to Georgians’ civil rights, and must be vigorously denounced by any who believe in the continued protections and assurances of the U.S. Constitution.”
The charging documents in the case included allegations connecting several of those charged to the 2022 vandalism of Ebenezer Baptist Church, as well as incidents of throwing Molotov cocktails at police officers, traveling to the homes of a law enforcement officer and several contractors working on the site, and multiple acts of arson.
‘CROOKED’ COFFEE. CNN aired an in-depth look Tuesday at the alleged voting system data breach in Coffee County that is part of the RICO charges against former President Donald Trump and several of his 18 codefendants.
The lengthy piece includes interviews with local residents, including a Douglas City commissioner who was put in handcuffs in 2020 after helping a county resident to vote.
That voter told CNN’s Elle Reeve and Samantha Guff: “I won’t go back and vote, because of everything that’s going on. I didn’t understand why they call this ‘Crooked Coffee.’ But now I understand.”
Credit: Michael Blackshire/AJC
Credit: Michael Blackshire/AJC
‘TIGHTEN THE VISE.’ State Sen. Colton Moore, R-Trenton, isn’t letting up on his fellow Republicans who refuse to join his call for a special session to oust Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis, despite Gov. Brian Kemp’s statement that it’s not going to happen.
“I’m going to continue to tighten the vise, Martha,” Moore told WDUN’s Martha Zoller on Tuesday. He also described Willis’ prosecutions as “Nazisim” and said he’s using the money he’s raising off his anti-Willis campaign to flood his GOP colleagues with “tens of thousands” of robocalls.
“We’re in a political war,” he said.
When Zoller asked if he knows several of those senators have also gotten death threats as a result of his latest push, Moore responded: “Do you know how many death threats I’ve gotten?”
TODAY IN WASHINGTON:
- President Joe Biden will meet at the White House with leaders of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, and the Pacific Maritime Association to celebrate a new labor agreement covering workers at ports on the West Coast.
- The U.S. Senate is expected to confirm members of the Federal Reserve Board to full terms, including Georgia native Lisa Cook.
- The House returns Sept. 12.
SO LONG SONNY. The late Sonny Seiler is beloved across the state as half of the husband-wife team behind the University of Georgia’s bulldog mascot, Uga. In Savannah, his hometown, Seiler is also remembered as a subtle-but-powerful political force.
Seiler, who died last week at age 90 after a brief bout with cancer, will be laid to rest today, and his funeral is sure to attract a who’s who of local and state officials. A visitation held Tuesday night drew a state senator, the chairman of the Chatham County Elections Board and many other political players.
Seiler was a long-accomplished attorney and a leader within the State Bar of Georgia. He served as president of the lawyers’ governing body in the 1970s.
GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK to Robin Kemp, the intrepid founder of the Clayton Daily Crescent. She announced Tuesday she is closing shop at the local news service she has run for the last three years.
Kemp founded the Crescent after she was laid off from the Clayton News in 2020. She ran the entire enterprise herself throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 elections, and the chaotic aftermaths of both. She was even the focus of a Washington Post feature about her own shoe-leather scoops on Election Day 2020. That all followed a career at CNN and The Weather Channel.
After a bout with cancer and the daily grind of putting out the Crescent without a newsroom or big money behind her, Kemp has been scooped up by a Coastal Georgia online news outlet, The Current, as an accountability reporter in Liberty County. Clayton’s loss is Liberty’s gain, but buckle up, Liberty. And get your Georgia Open Records Act and Freedom of Information Act responses ready.
DOG OF THE DAY. Do you ever find yourself reading this feature and think, “If only I had an adorable 10-month-old, vetted, microchipped, super sweet, housebroken, crate-trained, frisky fox terrier-Labrador mix to call my own?”
Then meet Ariel, the latest and possibly greatest foster pup brought to us by our own Maya T. Prabhu, serial pet foster mom. Maya reports that Ariel was found at a Cobb County animal shelter, where she lived for two months. She can now be found most Saturdays at the PetSmart in Dunwoody for Georgia Homeless Pets’ adoptable pet events or at Maya’s house looking for attention.
If you’re ready for your own dog to make your days, reach out to Maya directly or contact Georgia Homeless Pets.
Send us your dogs of any political persuasion and location, and cats on a cat-by-cat basis, to email@example.com, or DM us at @MurphyAJC.
AS ALWAYS, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.