Georgians for Judicial Integrity is a grassroots group of concerned citizens and nonpartisan organizations working together to preserve judicial accountability and defeat Amendment 3 on November 8, 2016.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - October 11, 2016
Citizens Launch Campaign to Save the Judicial Qualifications Commission
Georgians for Judicial Integrity Urges Georgians to Vote “No” on Amendment Three
ATLANTA – Today, Georgians for Judicial Integrity, a group of concerned citizens and nonpartisan organizations, launched a grassroots campaign to prevent a dangerous political takeover of the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC), the state’s only judicial watchdog. The state constitution created the JQC as an independent commission responsible for investigating complaints of judicial misconduct against judges and removing judges from office whenever the accusations are confirmed.
During the previous legislative session, the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation (HB 808 and HR 1113) that aims to dismantle the current structure of the JQC and remake it in a manner that would weaken its authority. Part of this change requires an amendment to the Georgia Constitution, which will appear as a question to voters during the upcoming presidential election. Georgians for Judicial Integrity unveiled a website – www.GeorgiaJudges.org – designed to educate the public regarding this proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot.
“Since the establishment of the JQC more than four decades ago, this critically important state entity has been both effective and independent – identifying and removing dozens of judges whose actions have ranged from corrupt to unethical to illegal,” remarked Sara Totonchi, Executive Director of the Southern Center for Human Rights. “Under the changes being proposed, this well-regarded version of the JQC would be abolished and replaced with a new commission comprised of members appointed by legislative leaders – a blatant political power grab.”
Since 2007, nearly five dozen judges have resigned after JQC investigations. The subject of one such JQC investigation, Johnnie Caldwell, Jr., formerly of the Griffin Judicial Circuit, left the bench in 2010 after facing accusations he made rude, sexually suggestive comments to a female attorney. He then won a seat in the state House two years later, and co-sponsored two of the three JQC-related bills in the last session.
“If Amendment Three passes, Georgia would become the only state in the deep South – and the only state in the South, with the exception of Virginia – with a legislature that has this type of power over the judiciary branch,” said Francys Johnson, State President of the Georgia NAACP. “Our founders devised a system with three co-equal branches of government. This amendment concentrates too much power in the executive and legislative branches, and that is not right. Georgians cannot allow the misleading ballot language trick them into approving this incredibly harmful measure.”
“Georgians for Judicial Integrity launched this public education effort to ensure that citizens understand what is at work here: a politically motivated effort to replace a well-established, independent and effective judicial oversight commission with one that will be vulnerable to political pressure and appointed largely by members of an entirely different branch of state government,” said Wilson DuBose, founding member of DuBose Law Group LLC. “We urge every Georgian who is concerned about preserving the independence of the JQC and a properly functioning judiciary to visit our website, www.GeorgiaJudges.org, and vote ‘no’ on Amendment Three in November.”