Georgia: constitutional amendment would provide legislative takeover of state judicial disciplinary commission, subjects proceedings to open meetings requirements

A plan to move the state’s independent judicial disciplinary commission (Judicial Qualifications Commission) under the legislature has cleared its first legislative hurdle. Both a constitutional amendment (HR 1113) and enabling legislation (HB 808) that would vacate the existing JQC and create a new one cleared the House Judiciary Committee yesterday.

Presently the JQC is made up of

  • 2 judges from courts of record chosen by the Supreme Court
  • 3 bar members elected by the bar’s board of governors
  • 2 non-attorneys chosen by the Governor

The constitutional amendment provides only that the General Assembly would have the power to create and provide for the composition of the new JQC. Under the enabling legislation as introduced the new JQC would be made up of all attorneys and judges. As amended, the JQC would be made up of attorneys and non-attorneys.

  • 2 judges from courts of record chosen by the Supreme Court
  • 1 state bar member chosen by the Governor
  • 1 state bar member chosen by the House Speaker
  • 1 state bar member chosen by the Senate President
  • 2 non state bar members chosen by the Governor

Moreover, the bill would require all future JQC meetings be subject to the state’s open meeting requirements (O.C.G.A. 50-14-3). Proponents accuse the existing JQC of operating “more like a star chamber than a judicial commission in handling the cases coming before them.”

The state’s supreme court would still retain review authority over the JQC (“[P]rocedures and advisory opinions issued by the Judicial Qualifications Commission shall be subject to review by the Supreme Court.”)