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Kemp signs bill removing local prosecutors in Georgia

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Kemp signs bill removing local prosecutors in Georgia

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed a bill Friday to create a commission with the power to remove local prosecutors who “refuse to comply with the law.”

Kemp’s office said in a news release that his signature created the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission (PACQ), which will serve as a “valuable oversight mechanism” for district attorneys and attorneys general across the state. The office said the commission will ensure that these officials fulfill their constitutional and legal duties.

“As hard-working police officers routinely risk their lives to investigate, confront and arrest criminals, I will not stand idly by as they face resistance from rogue or incompetent prosecutors who refuse to uphold the law,” said Kemp. “The creation of the PACQ will help hold accountable prosecutors who are guided by out-of-touch politics rather than commitment to their responsibilities and make our communities safer.”

The law establishes several grounds for the commission to fire prosecutors or force their “involuntary retirement.” These include willful misconduct in office, mental or physical incapacity likely to be permanent in the performance of duties, willful and persistent failure to perform legal duties, and conviction of a crime involving “moral turpitude.”

District attorneys and attorneys general could also be fired for conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and reputation of the office, and for knowingly allowing an assistant district attorney or assistant attorney general to commit any of the listed acts.

The commission will begin work on July 1 and can begin accepting complaints about prosecutors from October 1.

The law is one of several efforts that some Republicans have undertaken across the country to crack down on Democratic and liberal-leaning prosecutors who they accuse of being soft on crime and refusing to prosecute certain crimes.

Democrats in Georgia have accused the Republican-controlled Legislature and Kemp of trying to impose the Legislature’s will on Democratic local areas.

Some observers said the law could be used against Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is considering charges against former President Trump and his allies over efforts to overturn the state’s election results in the 2020 presidential race.

Willis has condemned the law as racist because it comes into effect after voters elected 14 nonwhite district attorneys.

Republicans cited District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez, who covers Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties, as a target of the law because she has refused to prosecute marijuana-related crimes. Seven district attorneys have also pledged not to prosecute abortion-related crimes following the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade had tipped.

Georgia is not the only state where officials have taken action to try to fire prosecutors they believe are failing in their responsibilities. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) fired a prosecutor in August for signing a pledge not to prosecute women and doctors who violate abortion laws and families seeking gender-affirming care for minors track.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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