Georgia officials failed to follow ethical and legal rules in charging Trump

A judge in Fulton County, Georgia, failed to properly follow the precedent set by the state Supreme Court by allowing the county’s top prosecutor to pursue a grand jury investigation into former President Donald Trump after he dismissed the Prosecutor had excluded from part of the investigation due to misconduct.

In an August 15 legal analysis in The Daily Signal, I highlighted the problems with the false indictment of Trump and 18 co-defendants orchestrated by Fani Wills, the politically ambitious district attorney in Fulton County.

This combination of factors has led to an unprecedented attack on the First Amendment and the structure of the American legal system.

So what is the ethical issue, beyond the constitutional and legal issues, that surrounds Willis’s indictment of Trump? On July 25, 2022, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney disqualified Willis from continuing to act against then-Senator Burt Jones as part of her grand jury investigation.

Jones, then the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Georgia, was elected in November. He was also among the electors who showed up at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on December 1, 2020 – the statutory day – to vote for Trump and give him a legal remedy should a court or the state Legislature overturn the results the presidential election in Georgia.

Three of that day’s electors were impeached by Willis, allegedly for creating “false Electoral College documents.”

As McBurney outlined in his disqualification order, Willis “hosted and headlined a fundraiser” for Charles Bailey, the Democratic nominee against Jones, at a time when “media coverage of the grand jury proceedings was national and uninterrupted and the District Attorney had jurisdiction.” . “very public face of these proceedings.”

Willis, the Supreme Court justice wrote, “promised her name, her likeness and her office” to help Jones’ opponent, while at the same time targeting Jones and “publicly (in her briefs) calling Senator Jones a ‘target.’ Grand Jury termed “investigation.”

This created a “clear – and actual and untenable – conflict,” McBurney wrote, since any decision Willis made regarding Jones “in connection with the grand jury will inevitably be influenced by it.”

McBurney concluded that concern over the actions of:

The District Attorney’s bias emerges naturally, immediately, and rationally in the minds of the public, the experts, and, most critically, the subjects of the investigation that necessitates the disqualification. An investigation of this significance, which inevitably captures public attention and touches so many political nerves in our society, must not be burdened by reasonable doubts about the district attorney’s motives. The prosecutor does not have to be apolitical, but her investigations certainly do.

As a result, McBurney rightly disqualified Willis and her entire office from targeting Jones in any way before the Fulton County grand jury, nor any longer publicly categorized him “as a subject or target of the grand jury investigation.”

But here lies the problem. According to a 2014 Georgia Supreme Court decision, McLaughlin v. Payne, McBurney should have excluded Willis and all prosecutors in her office from the entire grand jury investigation into Trump and all other indicted co-defendants, including the other conditional electors.

In the McLaughlin case, the district attorney of another Georgia county appeared as a witness for the state in a criminal case because his daughter was a classmate of the crime victim. The prosecutor was involved in the initial investigation of the crime, his daughter had told him what she had heard about the crime, and the deputy prosecutor who presided over the trial reported directly to the prosecutor.

The state Supreme Court ruled that the district attorney “had a personal interest in the case that precluded him from participating in the prosecution at all, not just as a trial attorney.”

Furthermore, this conflict related to the “entire office” of the district attorney, since under the state constitution the district attorney is “a constitutional officer” who “appoints the assistant district attorneys” and whose “authority is derived from him” and “sole officer.” is at will.”

The fact that the district attorney was only one of several witnesses in the prosecution did not resolve this conflict and he and his entire office had to be excluded from the prosecution.

In the Trump case, Willis convened a “single grand jury” to investigate a specific issue, according to a letter she sent to Fulton County’s chief judge in January 2022, asking the grand jury to “all “coordinated attempts at unlawful acts” to “change the outcome of the 2020 elections in Georgia.”

Willis said the grand jury’s purpose was to review “this matter only” and issue a single report with recommendations on possible charges.

The state Supreme Court’s McLaughlin decision states that if a prosecutor is found to have a personal interest in a case that constitutes grounds for disqualification, that prosecutor and his entire office will be disqualified from the entire process. This personal interest—indeed, a partisan, political interest—is exactly what McBurney identified when he excluded Willis and the entire Fulton County District Attorney’s Office from targeting Burt Jones.

But Willis and her office should have been barred from continuing the grand jury investigation as a whole, rather than just one target.

McBurney does not have the authority to disqualify just a potential defendant. In the Trump indictment, Willis clearly alleges that all of the defendants involved in challenging the 2020 election results were inextricably linked to each other, the Trump campaign and the Georgia Republican Party. In their view, this included possible defendants such as Jones (who is actually referred to in the indictment as “unindicted co-conspirator #8”).

By denigrating the other electors, Willis would also be denigrating Jones, and that should have been obvious at the time. In fact, the very basis for prosecutors’ use of the Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations Act to charge Trump and the others is their claim that they were all involved in a vast conspiracy for which each bears full responsibility.

Willis’ disqualification would have resulted in her disqualification given her personal conflict of interest in attempting to lend her name and the credibility of her office to help Jones’ Democratic opponents while targeting Jones as part of this alleged interlocking conspiracy – and all lawyers in their office – must carry. from the entire grand jury investigation.

When McBurney was asked by the other electors (now named as defendants) to reconsider his decision and issue a broader disqualification, the Supreme Court justice refused. He issued an arrogantly dismissive three-page order on August 25, 2022 that essentially ignored the findings of his previous order and did not even discuss the inconvenient McLaughlin decision.

McBurney generally noted that a prosecutor conducting an investigation into possible election misconduct “is not automatically biased and partisan – and cannot be disqualified – because of the common political affiliation of the subjects (and targets) of the investigation.”

But no one had suggested that Willis should be disqualified because she is a Democrat and all of her targets are Republicans. McBurney herself noted that Willis had a “manifest and irreconcilable” conflict of interest that called into question her objectivity and the legitimacy of the grand jury investigation. But McBurney failed to address this.

This question should be revisited by the courts, particularly in light of Willis’ recently surfaced tweets questioning the outcome of past elections, including the 2018 midterms and the 2020 presidential election.

These are exactly the types of public postings that Willis cited in her grand jury indictment of Trump and 18 co-defendants. Apparently they don’t get the same immunity she gave herself to question the outcome of an election or raise questions about the conduct of election officials.

This shocking hypocrisy is just further evidence of Willis’ politically biased behavior.

All of this should cause great concern among Georgians who could fall victim to such an attack on fundamental First Amendment activities, as well as state lawmakers who are tasked with ensuring that the state’s justice system is fair and honest and not used as a political tool Weapon.

This article originally appeared in The Daily Signal