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ATHENS, Ga.– November eighth is fast approaching and you aren’t only voting on a new president. There will be four amendments on the ballot to vote on. One of those amendments is Amendment 3.

Amendment 3 discusses the options for the Georgia Replacement of the Judicial Qualifications Commission. The Judicial Qualifications Commission was created in 1972. The commission conducts investigations and hearings for complaints of ethical misconduct by Georgia judges. Those in favor of Amendment 3 argue that the commission has lost credibility and therefore needs to be overhauled.

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(Wendell Willard, Georgia House of Representative. R-Sandy Springs)

“The issue is, the current judicial qualifications commission is dysfunctional, and has been for some time. They are without a director and they’re not really performing their work. There’s a back log of pending complaints. I think somewhere like 500, and there’s no real system in place to finish and do this work,” says Wendell Willard, Georgia House of Representatives.

The ballot will contain this question for voters to answer yes or no to: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to abolish the existing Judicial Qualifications Commission; require the General Assembly to create and provide by general law for the composition, manner of appointment, and governance of a new Judicial Qualifications Commission, with such commission having the power to discipline, remove, and cause involuntary retirement of judges; require the Judicial Qualifications Commission to have procedures that provide for due process of law and review by the Supreme Court of its advisory opinions; and allow the Judicial Qualifications Commission to be open to the public in some manner?”

A former President of the State Bar of Georgia doesn’t agree with the wording of the ballot question.

(Lester Tateormer 48th President of the State Bar of Georgia and a trial lawyer. Photo: Cindy Harter Photography)
(Lester Tate, former 48th President of the State Bar of Georgia and a present trial lawyer for Akin & Tate, P.C. Photo: Cindy Harter Photography)

“These are the proponents of the amendment who write the description and it’s written in such a way to describe it as if it’s the American flag and apple pie when in fact it is the opposite. It’s the rejection of having an independent constitutional commission, so it’s most definitely misleading… and I think that these are written in such a way as to ensure that they pass,” says Lester Tate, former 48th President of the State Bar of Georgia and present trial lawyer.

In summary, if you vote “yes” to Amendment 3, then you are in favor of the General Assembly creating a new Judicial Qualifications Commission.

“What we’re doing is, we’re abolishing the current commission and reconstructing it to be sure that the work that is assigned to it is done in an expedited manner and be sure that the people who come before them are treated fairly and given due process with complaints. That’s true for the citizens and the judges,” says Willard.

This new commission mentioned by Willard would be designed and governed by the General Assembly. That means the General Assembly would have the power to discipline, remove, and cause involuntary retirement of judges. As of now, the Commission contains lawyers who have been appointed by the State Bar of Georgia- not the General Assembly.

If you vote “no,” then your vote opposes having the General Assembly appoint lawyers to the commission and instead keeping the State Bar of Georgia in charge of appointing lawyers to the Commission. A former President of the State Bar of Georgia and a trial lawyer thinks that no is the best option for the citizens of Georgia.

“It’s a political power grab, again, designed to replace a commission that has served the people of georgia well for over 44 year, and if it’s passed it let’s the legislature reconstruct the judicial qualifications commission in any way that it wants… Anyone who believes that judicial ethics is something that’s important to them for the people of the state should reject this power grab on behalf of the legislature,” says Tate.

At the end of the interview, Tate stated his opinion very bluntly.

“Vote no because judicial ethics shouldn’t be governed by dirty politicians.”

The other amendments on the November eighth ballot include:

Amendment 1- Opportunity School District 

Amendment 2- Exploited children

Amendment 4- Fireworks tax revenue

For the broadcast version of this story watch below.

By: Kendall Meissner

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