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Published on April 17, 2024
Georgia DAs File Lawsuit Against Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission Citing Constitutional BreachSource: Google Street View

In a legal clash over prosecutorial oversight, a cohort of Georgia's district attorneys have launched a lawsuit against what they dub a constitutional overreach. The bipartisan group, spearheaded by the likes of Sherry Boston and including Jonathan Adams and Jared Williams, targets the newly revived Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission (PAQC), an entity that has been empowered to review and potentially oust local prosecutors.

According to a statement from DeKalb County's top prosecutor Sherry Boston, the move against the PAQC comes after Governor Brian Kemp signed off on a bill that cuts the Georgia Supreme Court out of the commission's oversight loop, a change that has done little to subdue the constitutional concerns previously raised. "Our commitment to fight this unconstitutional law is as strong as ever," Boston said. "Gov. Kemp and the state lawmakers, who supported this measure, willfully ignored the concerns raised by the Georgia Supreme Court and did the absolute minimum to force the PAQC into existence."

Those bringing the suit argue that the PAQC not only undermines the judicial structure of Georgia's constitution by supplanting the voters' will but also treads on the elected officials' freedom of speech. The plaintiffs contend that the commission could discipline DAs for their prosecution philosophies, including decisions to not prosecute certain crimes like adultery, still technically illegal under state law, curbing the transparency and open communication between communities and their elected protectors.

"This law is not about oversight, it’s about overturning the will of voters," Jared Williams, Augusta Judicial Circuit District Attorney, attested. The legal challenge, laid out in Fulton County Superior Court, points to the perceived threat that the PAQC poses, citing a trinity of legal infractions: the law’s alleged interference with the separation of powers, its restriction on DAs’ speech, and the commission's bypassing of required counsel from the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council when drafting its rules.

With the filing of this lawsuit, the district attorneys seek to not only invalidate the controversial state law but to also prevent the PAQC from investigating or disciplining prosecutors based on their policy decisions or public statements regarding those policies. It’s a fight that sits squarely at the crossroads of prosecution autonomy and state control, yet the outcome could send ripples far beyond Georgia's borders, as states nation-wide eye the balance of power between elected local prosecutors and state-established oversight bodies.