A LITTLE OVER a week after a prosecutor in Georgia indicted former President Donald Trump for trying to overturn the results of the state’s 2020 presidential election, Republicans said they will use a new law to remove her from office.
In May, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed the law that created a new commission of political appointees with the power to remove and discipline elected prosecutors over decisions or policies not to prosecute certain offenses. The law seeks to limit or restrict reform-minded prosecutors. In the case of Fulton County — which includes Atlanta — though, District Attorney Fani Willis is not even known as much of a reformer. Instead, Republican lawmakers set their sights on Willis for another reason: prosecuting the wrong person.
In a Facebook post Monday, state Sen. Clint Dixon, a Republican, said Willis was indicting Trump because of an “unabashed goal to become some sort of leftist celebrity” and should be investigated for using the justice system against her political opponents.
The Public Rights Project, a nonprofit that worked on a lawsuit by a bipartisan group of Georgia prosecutors against the bill earlier this month, filed a preliminary injunction against the commission on Thursday seeking to stop it from initiating any disciplinary or removal proceedings against a prosecutor while litigation over the law is pending.
“The original reasoning for the commission was to go after DAs who supposedly weren’t prosecuting enough,” said Jill Habig, executive director of the Public Rights Project. “It’s not only about not prosecuting enough, it’s also about prosecuting too much if the defendant is the wrong one from the perspective of the partisan officials who are creating and staffing this commission.”
Habig, who said her group disagrees with that characterization of prosecutors targeted by the bill, said the injunction to block Willis’s ouster was necessary to preserve the will of voters who elected prosecutors across the state. (The commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)
The new Georgia law is one of close to 40 similar measures introduced in a third of states since 2017 that target prosecutors implementing popular criminal justice reforms. The recent efforts to subvert the authority of elected prosecutors have been largely driven by white Republican lawmakers in gerrymandered states against Black Democrats in the liberal islands of cities, Habig said.
“This is part of a national trend that we’re seeing of predominantly white, often gerrymandered state legislatures targeting prosecutors — often Black prosecutors.”
“Over a third of states have considered legislation to retaliate against local prosecutors for pursuing policies that they disagree with,” Habig said. “This is part of a national trend that we’re seeing of predominantly white, often gerrymandered state legislatures targeting prosecutors — often Black prosecutors, and often prosecutors elected in cities and counties with larger Black and brown populations. So the partisan and racial nature of this retaliation I think is something that’s really important to highlight.”
The remarks by Dixon, the state senator, were the first shot across the bow, Habig said: “The drumbeat is just starting.”
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