DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston discusses a lawsuit that seeks to strike down a Georgia law restricting prosecutors on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2023, in Decatur, Ga. Boston, and three other Georgia district attorneys filed the suit. (Jeff Amy/Associated Press)
DECATUR, GA — Four Georgia district attorneys are suing the State of Georgia in opposition to Senate Bill 92, calling the new law unconstitutional and disapproving of a state commission’s ability to remove or discipline prosecutors for misconduct and other reasons.
DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston’s office said the lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Fulton County Superior Court. Cobb County District Attorney Flynn Broady, Towaliga Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jonathan Adams, and Augusta Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jared Williams are also suing both the state and members of the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission.
The prosecutors want the courts to invalidate SB 92 or stop the commission from handling complaints or disciplining local prosecutors, according to a news release from Boston’s office.
The prosecutors are also aiming to keep the commission from investigating or disciplining district attorneys or solicitors general for prosecutorial decisions or for statements related to those decisions, according to the news release.
The Public Rights Project, a nonprofit that works with local governments to protect civil rights, is representing the attorneys alongside Washington, Dreyer and Associates and Bruce P. Brown Law.
Gov. Brian Kemp signed SB 92 in May, creating the commission to oversee the district attorneys and solicitors general statewide. The law took effect July 1.
Boston’s news release explains that the lawsuit contends SB 92 unconstitutional and violates due process clauses of the federal and state constitutions.
The lawsuit also claims SB 92 improperly allows the commission to define the grounds for discipline, violates free speech under the federal and state constitutions and interferes with prosecutorial discretion.
According to a past news release from Kemp’s office, under SB 92, a district attorney or solicitor general can be removed or involuntarily retired for the following reasons:
- Mental or physical incapacity that interferes with the performance of duties that is likely permanent
- Willful misconduct in office
- Willful and persistent failure to carry out statutory duties
- Conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude
- Conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the office into disrepute
- Knowingly authorizing or permitting an assistant district attorney or assistant solicitor general to commit any of the aforementioned acts.
Opposing SB 92, Boston said the commission has the power to “second guess prosecutors” and their policies and decisions.
“Under the law, a prosecutor the commission can remove cannot serve again for 10 years,” Boston said at the news conference.
She called the law an assault on democracy and, “a direct threat to every Georgian who exercises their right to vote, the right to choose the person who they think best represents their values and in a courtroom; and, it says to them if a state does not like your choice, the state will choose for you.”
Williams, the district attorney for Burke and Richmond counties, said SB 92 was created to “shut prosecutors up.”
“But, I didn’t march the streets in the Augusta heat to bite my tongue now that I’m here. This legislation strips prosecutors of our discretion but I vow to use this office for good and end the decades of harm done to the powerless,” Williams said.
“This legislation violates the voter’s choice. The people didn’t choose us to be robots with law degrees. They chose us to make the tough decisions that ultimately protect our communities. Standing with me is a group of prosecutors. We don’t back down from bad criminals who hurt people, and we won’t back down from bad law and harmful policy. I’m willing to lose my job to do the right thing, but what does it say about us that anyone should have to make that choice.”
Adams, the district attorney for Butts, Lamar and Monroe counties, said he believes it is a district attorney’s right to choose how a case should move forward in prosecution, advocating for prosecutorial independence.
“As a member of the judicial branch, I believe we have a right and a need to make hard decisions regarding what is important to prosecute,” he said.
Broady did not speak at the news conference.
Garrison Douglas, a press secretary for Kemp’s office, told Patch the governor does not comment on pending litigation.