Voters in Georgia will be faced with the choice of dismantling the state’s judicial watchdog panel during November’s election, a vote one local judge hopes everyone opposes.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission was created in 1972 to investigate reports of misconduct by any Georgia judge.

Georgia voters will be asked to vote on a constitutional amendment to abolish the current JQC and allow the General Assembly to create a new one.

“I am not in favor of abolishing the JQC and placing this in the hands of the legislature,” said Floyd County Superior Court Judge Tami Colston.

Colston is concerned the legislative proposal will upset the separation of powers between the three branches of government.

“It’s dangerous,” Colston continued. “It could result in partisan politics coming into play if certain groups want to get rid of certain judges.”

She asked voters to oppose the dismantling of the current JQC if they want to maintain an “unbiased, nonpartisan” court that can fairly mediate disputes.

“I certainly hope that the referendum is worded in a manner that voters can really understand what they’re voting for...so please get educated,” Colston said.

State Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, a sponsor of the measure, said he and other legislators are supporting the proposal because the current JQC serves as the investigator, prosecutor and judge with no public scrutiny.

“Every committee, every commission and every agency in the state of Georgia is set up by the legislature,” Willard said in response to concerns about the separation of powers.

Willard said he believes one member of the JQC recently spurred an investigation after a judge refused to follow the demands of that unidentified member. He declined to provide specifics.

More details will come out during a legislative committee meeting Thursday to discuss the future of the JQC, Willard said.

As it stands now, the JQC has seven members — two judges selected by the Georgia Supreme Court, three lawyers appointed by the State Bar Association and two citizens appointed by the governor.

Willard hopes to have a nine-member JQC, with the Supreme Court still selecting judges, but attorneys and citizens will be selected by the speaker of the house, lieutenant governor and governor.

 

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