A new Georgia commission to discipline and remove wayward prosecutors would be the latest move nationwide to ratchet up oversight on what Republicans see as “woke prosecutors” who aren’t doing enough to fight crime, the Associated Press reports. The Georgia House voted 97-77 on Monday for Senate Bill 92 to create the commission. The Senate later sent the measure to Gov. Brian Kemp, who has voiced support for the concept. The Georgia bill parallels efforts to remove prosecutors in Florida, Missouri, Indiana and Pennsylvania, as well as broader disputes nationwide over how certain criminal offenses should be charged. The moves continue anti-crime campaigns that Republicans ran nationwide last year, accusing Democrats of coddling criminals and acting improperly by refusing to prosecute whole categories of crimes including marijuana possession. All the efforts raise the question of prosecutorial discretion — a prosecutor’s decision of what cases to try or reject and what charges to bring.
Carissa Hessick, a law professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the Republican push tries to reverse a sea change in prosecution. Hessick, who directs the Prosecutors and Politics Project, said that for the first time, voters are being confronted with meaningful debate about prosecutors’ policies. Georgia Democrats oppose the measure, saying majority Republicans are seeking another way to impose their will on local Democratic voters. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has decried the measure, claiming it’s a racist attack after voters elected 14 nonwhite district attorneys in Georgia in 2020. Willis pushed herself to the center of the controversy as she’s mulling charges against former President Trump for interfering in Georgia’s 2020 election. Some have viewed it as Republican retribution against the Atlanta prosecutor. The energy behind the bill has not been against Willis, who in addition to targeting Trump is pursuing a tough-on-crime offensive against alleged gang members. Instead, many Republicans are angered by Deborah Gonzalez, a district attorney who covers two counties including Athens, Kemp’s hometown. She’s under fire for refusal to prosecute marijuana cases, an outflow of prosecutors working under her, and failure to meet court deadlines.