‘This American Life’ highlights battle over Georgia judicial watchdog agency

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State Rep. Wendell Willard is one of the sponsors of the JQC measure. AJC file.

The battle over a proposed constitutional amendment to dismantle the Georgia watchdog agency that investigates judicial misconduct is getting national attention.

“This American Life” devoted a segment on the evolution of the Nov. 8 ballot question that asks voters if they want to overhaul the Judicial Qualifications Commission, an independent agency that investigates judges, and replace its members with new members appointed by elected officials.

You can catch it right here. It features Lester Tate, a former State Bar of Georgia president and one-time member of the JQC, learning of the measure that sped through the Legislature. He told producer Dave Kestenbaum he saw it as an “act of war.”

From the transcript:

Lester Tate: Clearly it was. You know, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, we had no knowledge that it was coming. Nothing’s been said about this to anybody and then, all of the sudden, you introduce a bill like this? I think it’s pretty clear that a sneak attack has been launched.

 

Dave Kestenbaum: It’s not quite as bad as Pearl Harbor.

 

Lester Tate: Well, no ships were sunk in the process, but the analogy, I think, still holds true.

And then there’s state Rep. Wendell Willard, the Sandy Springs Republican who sponsored the measure. He talked of how the treatment of Amanda Williams, who was then the chief judge of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit, helped spark the measure. She retired after the JQC accused her of being a tyrant and was indicted last year on charges she lied to the commission. That charge is pending.

Wendell Willard: Next thing we’re reading about is there’s an indictment been taken out against Judge Williams. I said, wow. She must’ve really done something pretty drastic to have a felony indictment.

 

Dave Kestenbaum: (I looked this up. What she’d done, according to the indictment, was lie to the JQC. It’s a felony offense with possible jail time.) Is your position basically like, maybe it was correct that she stepped down for what she did, but the idea that she would–

 

Wendell Willard: I’m not concerned about her stepping down. It’s the process– what I call the due process–

The entire program is worth a listen. And if you stick with it long enough, you might hear a cameo from one of your Insiders.

And catch up on the debate with our AJC colleague Rhonda Cook’s latest, a piece on the State Bar’s decision to wave the white flag on the JQC debate.


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