Politics: Georgia Amendment 3

This is a very easy decision (finally!).  The third out of 4 amendments for Georgia’s ballot this year (whew!) is a repeal/replacement of our judicial oversight commission.

So in-brief, this measure changes the language of the current oversight commission for our judges in Georgia.  The ballot summary is:

This proposal abolishes the existing Judicial Qualifications Commission and requires the General Assembly to replace it with a new Judicial Qualifications Commission and provide for the composition, manner of appointment, governance, powers and duties, procedures, and open meetings of such reformed commission, with such commission having the power to discipline, remove, and cause involuntary retirement of judges as provided in the Constitution, and for Supreme Court review of the commission’s opinions and procedures. It amends Article VI, Section VII, Paragraph VI and Article VI, Section VII, Paragraph VII of the Georgia Constitution. A copy of this entire proposed amendment is on file in the office of the judge of the probate court and is available for public inspection.

I spent a little time trying to wrap my brain around what exactly this meant, but then I looked into who is for and against it. Well, I stopped trying to understand it the way I do with others:

Strike One: the “For” team:

So one of the bill’s sponsors used to be a judge. Note the “used to be” part. He apparently was accused of making sexually suggestive comments to a female attorney and had to “step down” from the bench before the current commission got too invested in investigating him.  So… in other words someone who might/could directly benefit from removing the current system wants to replace it? I’m very suspicious of his motives.

Add to this, there are no endorsements I’ve been able to find from any groups.  The only “pro” people seem to be the bill’s sponsors… if I can’t understand and you can’t get experts to endorse it… my doubts rise.

Strike Two: The “Against” team:

I won’t ever say lawyers are angels, but they do have an association that puts ethics into their terminologies and tries to uphold some kind of standard. Imperfect, but existing. And they are against this bill. It says something when the bar association’s president (which lawyers and judges don’t always like each other!) has a great statement:

For over four decades the JQC has served the citizens of Georgia very well…To try to amend the constitution of the state of Georgia before they even have the hearings they want to have to investigate whatever it is they want to investigate at the JQC was frankly premature and just doesn’t make sense. Why amend the Constitution when you don’t have all the facts?

Add to this that Georgians for Judicial Integrity is against it… I mean, when it doubt I look at the teams at play and I would say there are some strong players on the “cons” team that I will at least take seriously.

Strike Three: Editorials

A former chairman (probably biased, I know!) said their “simple language” version is:

the abolition of the current JQC in favor of one that would be a creature of the state legislature […] The people of Georgia have had an independent constitutional commission since 1972, and I believe it has served them well.

There are a few versions of other “plain language” and they all explain that the phrase “requires the General Assembly to replace” will lead to a legislatively-controlled board. It remaining independent is a good thing.  If, as the proponents claim, there needs to be more “transparency” in it – just add transparency requirements!  You don’t have to rebuild/replace when you can just repair (Warning for anyone out there: I will use that phrase in future posts – expect it!)

Decision:

I have to vote against this. I like the idea of transparency, but I do NOT like tearing down something so a dude might/maybe can get his old job back and let elected goons try to mandate court policies/practices. Because you know that is what will happen. And the last thing I want is for the judiciary to “report” or even think about how their job could be influenced by legislators!  Separation of powers. So I’m going to have to vote against at least this version of the amendment.

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