Four Georgia district attorneys took legal action to stop a new disciplinary committee from having the power to kick county prosecutors out of office, according to the Georgia Recorder. The plaintiffs allege in a state lawsuit that GOP lawmakers and Gov. Brian Kemp enacted legislation this year establishing an oversight commission that unconstitutionally restricts the power of local prosecutors and local voters who elect them. On Wednesday, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr promised to hold prosecutors accountable for failing to enforce certain criminal charges as well as for other misconduct that violates their oath of office. Under the new law, the Georgia Supreme Court would appoint investigative panels to decide whether a prosecutor has committed willful or prejudicial misconduct, should be punished for not prosecuting low-level offenses, or is found to have mental or physical disabilities that impeded their ability to do the job.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs claim the oversight commission undermines the Georgia constitution that allows voters to elect district attorneys who are lawfully protected to carry out their constituents’ priorities. The complaint argues that the new law restricts the district attorneys’ free speech rights under the First Amendment. “This law is a direct threat to every Georgian who exercises their right to vote – their right to choose the person who they think best represents their values in the courtroom,” said DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston, a Democrat. The prospect of an oversight commission is getting mixed reviews from local prosecutors. Two dozen district attorneys and solicitors signed a letter supporting the oversight legislation. Georgia’s district attorney and prosecutor associations have warned that the panel could unfairly target prosecutors for making independent judgments about which cases to pursue. Advocates of the state-level watchdog commission say it puts prosecutors in the same position as judges and police officers who are subject to oversight groups that can force them out of their jobs.