Have you heard of the Judicial Qualifications Commission? If not, you’re about to.
The JQC is the watchdog agency that makes sure Georgia judges aren’t overstepping their authority. Thanks to House and Senate Republicans (and quite a few Democrats), it might have its legs cut out from under it.
If the Governor signs the legislation passed late last night, voters in November will decide whether to dissolve the Commission and replace the members. The Commission would also be allowed to conduct much of its work in secret.
This development is particularly shocking considering that the JQC has been been incredibly effective — and that this attack on the Commission is clearly politically motivated. Just take a look at this excerpt from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Open government advocates say the measure is bad for the public, which can credit JQC investigations with forcing more than five dozen judges from the bench since 2007. That includes Johnnie Caldwell Jr., who resigned as a judge in the Griffin Judicial Circuit in 2010 after being accused of making rude, sexually suggestive comments to a female attorney.
Caldwell, who won a seat in the state House two years later, is co-sponsoring two of three pieces of legislation seeking changes to the agency.
This is blatant corruption at its finest in a state that saw its governor cripple the very ethics commission investigating him for– you guessed it — corruption. Is this the state we want to live in, where both the people who make the laws and enforce the laws are free from basic oversight?
Fortunately, we do still have a say. Don’t forget that this issue will be on the ballot in November, and it will have some company: the lawmakers who voted for it.