State Representatives Houston Gaines (R-Athens) and Joseph Gullett (R-Dallas) today introduced legislation to ensure that district attorneys and solicitors general in Georgia are held responsible for misconduct in office. Reps. Gaines and Gullett introduced two separate measures focused on this issue.
“If a prosecutor is not doing his or her job, we need a system in state law to remove that individual from office,” said Rep. Gaines. “Communities across our state cannot afford to wait; voters deserve a remedy that will allow them to protect their counties, cities and neighborhoods. This bill would ensure that if prosecutors choose to ignore the laws of this state, they will be subject to a recall, and it will be up to the people to decide if that individual deserves to stay in office. It is past time we take on rogue prosecutors in Georgia who are putting lives in danger every single day.”
House Bill 229, authored by Rep. Gaines and sponsored by Rep. Gullett, would put into Georgia law that part of the duties of a district attorney and a solicitor general is to review every individual case if probable cause for prosecution exists, as well as make a prosecutorial decision available based on the facts and circumstances of each individual case under oath of duty. This legislation further outlines that failing to do so would make a prosecutor subject to recall – adding to the existing criteria that make a public official eligible for recall. The legislation also lowers the threshold of signatures to recall a prosecutor.
The second bill, House Bill 231, would provide permanent oversight of prosecutors accused of wrongdoing through a panel that holds jurisdiction like the Judicial Qualifications Committee does with judges.
“Voters across the state are begging legislators to address corrupt prosecutors,” said Rep. Gullett. “While most district attorneys and solicitor generals are hard-working public servants seeking justice for victims, others have sullied and called into question the integrity of our criminal justice system through their unethical behavior. Since I first began working on prosecutor oversight legislation, Georgia has had more than half a dozen prosecutors accused of serious unethical and corrupt behavior. This includes lying, cheating, stealing and flat out refusing to enforce the law. This behavior affects rural and urban communities with prosecutors on both sides of the political aisle.”
House Bill 231, authored by Rep. Gullett and sponsored by Rep. Gaines, would create the Prosecuting Attorneys Oversight Commission. The legislation, which is similar to language previously passed in the House during the past two legislative sessions, would create an oversight commission to hold prosecutors accountable. Prosecutors who display willful misconduct in office, persistently fail to perform the duties of their office, are personally convicted of a crime of moral turpitude or who display conduct that brings the office in disrepute would be subject to review by the commission, including possible removal from office. The commission would be appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the House and Senate Committee on Assignments.
“This legislation would solidify a prosecutor’s duty to exercise discretion on an individual case basis after reviewing the facts of each case,” said Rep. Gullett. “District attorneys and solicitors general are entrusted with the responsibility to enforce the law and play a pivotal role in seeking justice. We must hold them accountable for their actions to ensure the integrity of our criminal justice system.”
Through HBs 229 and 231, these legislators seek to ensure that prosecutors do not dismiss Georgia law and only selectively prosecute cases and that if probable cause exists, the prosecutor should pursue the case.
Representative Houston Gaines represents the citizens of District 120, which includes portions of Barrow, Clarke, Jackson and Oconee counties. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 2018 and currently serves as Vice Chairman of the House Majority Caucus and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education. He also serves on the Creative Arts & Entertainment, Ethics, Governmental Affairs, Insurance, Public Health, Urban Affairs and Ways & Means committees.
Representative Joseph Gullett represents the citizens of District 19, which includes portions of Paulding County. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 2018 and currently serves as Vice Chairman of the Code Revision Committee and the Secretary of the Banks & Banking Committee. He also serves on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Economic Development and the Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications, Governmental Affairs, Insurance, Interstate Cooperation, Judiciary Non-Civil, Juvenile Justice and Technology and Infrastructure Innovation committees.