SAVANNAH, Ga (WSAV) – Investigating state judges is on the ballot as amendment three.
This amendment could change how a state watchdog group is appointed, some say it would jeopardize the way the checks and balances system works for those on the bench.
“We have a commission that over the last several years that has put away sixty corrupt judges,” says Columbus state senator Josh McKoon who visited Savannah Wednesday on a statewide tour to campaign against the amendment.
It has spent the last forty years keeping judges across the state in check. Recently, accusations reached the state legislature that the Judicial Qualifications Commission was bullying judges they brought in for questioning. That prompted the swift legislative action to put question three on the ballot.
“Ultimately it will weaken the constitutional protections citizens have against abuses of power when those abuses of power come from people who wear the black robe,”says Statesboro attorney Francys Johnson.
The question asks to change the state constitution to take away the state bar as well as other groups like the state Supreme Court from appointing the seven person commission giving that right to governor and the heads of both general assembly bodies. Francys Johnson, a state bar member and Georgia NAACP member, says it’s all about politics.
“When I saw Johnnie Caldwell, who had been a superior court judge, who had been removed by the JQC, who pledged to never hold another judicial post, run for the General Assembly, he ran with the intent to dismantle the very body who pulled him from the superior court bench,” Johnson says.
We attempted to hear Caldwell’s side of the story regarding his past with the JQC. We are still waiting to hear from him. Local representative Jon Burns out of district 160 did return our calls with a statement on why he supports the amendment saying:
These reforms are all about accountability and fairness. We received multiple reports of the JQC using threats and intimidation against judges. I believe everyone, including judges, should receive due process. And I believe those entrusted with the power to prosecute, such as District Attorneys or the JQC, should be accountable to the people of Georgia. That is why I supported the legislation and why I plan to vote Yes to Amendment 3.
“Amendment three abolishes the commission, it throws the baby out with the bath water, if you are interested in seeing reform you ought to vote ‘no’ and that will allow us in the legislature to go back to the drawing board and get this right,” says Sen. McKoon.
The ballot question needed two third’s of both the state house and senate approval. It passed both chambers meeting that threshold by one vote.