Bill on judicial watchdogs passes without proposal to close hearings


The Georgia Legislature passed a bill in the final hours of this year’s session that could — if voters approve — abolish the state watchdog agency over judges and allow it to be recreated by lawmakers.

The bill passed early Friday after the state Senate agreed to drop a provision that would have barred the press and public from hearings of the state Judicial Commission. Those hearings are used to determine whether a judge is guilty of misconduct and should face punishment, ranging from a reprimand to removal from the bench.

That provision to close the hearings had been added to HB 808 last week in the Senate.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, vowed that a recreated JQC would be as transparent as the current commission created 40-plus years ago.

The House passed a new version of the bill from Willard late Thursday. It states “all hearings in connection with a complaint filed by the commission shall be open to the public.”

For rules governing the JQC to change, the public has to vote this fall to change the state Constitution.

A resolution on the referendum passed the General Assembly early this week.


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