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Democrats Warn Against Targeting Fani Willis as Georgia House Pass Bill to Revive Prosecutor Oversight Panel

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Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks during an Associated Press interview, Dec. 12, 2023, in Atlanta. On Monday, Jan. 29, 2024, the Georgia House of Representatives passed a bill that would revive a prosecutor oversight commission that Democrats warn could be used to target Willis.
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The Georgia House of Representatives has approved a bill to reinstate a commission tasked with overseeing prosecutors. This move has sparked concerns among Democrats who fear it is an attempt to undermine Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.

The legislation, known as House Bill 881, was passed by a vote of 95-75 along party lines, with Republicans supporting the measure and Democrats opposing it. The bill will now advance to the Senate for further consideration.

House Bill 881 seeks to revive the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission, initially created by Governor Brian Kemp last year. However, the commission could not commence operations after the state Supreme Court declined to approve rules governing its conduct. The court expressed doubts about its ability to regulate district attorneys’ duties beyond law practice.

The new bill eliminates the requirement for Supreme Court approval, granting the commission autonomy to operate independently. Supporters argue that the commission is essential for holding prosecutors accountable for misconduct and ensuring integrity in prosecuting attorneys’ offices.

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However, Democrats have raised concerns that the bill is politically motivated and explicitly targets District Attorney Fani Willis. Willis has gained national attention for her ongoing investigation into former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.

House Minority Whip Sam Park condemned the bill, accusing Republicans of attempting to interfere with Willis’ investigation and shield Trump from potential criminal prosecution. Park warned that the commission could be used to undermine the work of prosecutors who are pursuing justice impartially.

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The bill’s passage came amid mounting scrutiny of Willis’ investigation into Trump’s conduct. Last week, senators approved a special investigative committee to probe allegations that Willis misused state funds by hiring attorney Nathan Wade as a special prosecutor. Trump and co-defendant Michael Roman have sought to have Willis and Wade removed from the case, alleging an inappropriate romantic relationship between the two.

Willis has vehemently denied the allegations and defended Wade’s qualifications during a public appearance. However, Republicans argue that credit card statements from Wade’s divorce case suggest improper motives in his hiring by Willis.

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Governor Kemp has expressed support for the bill, emphasizing the importance of oversight in investigating misconduct allegations against prosecutors. He has called on the Senate to pass the measure swiftly to ensure accountability and transparency in the legal system.

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The outcome remains uncertain as the bill heads to the Senate for further debate. Democrats continue to oppose the measure, raising concerns about its potential implications for prosecutorial independence and the rule of law. Meanwhile, Republicans maintain that the commission is necessary to uphold ethical standards and prevent abuse of power by prosecutors.

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