A constitutional amendment to dismantle the Georgia watchdog agency that investigates judicial misconduct was mangled by what the sponsor calls a “mix-up” in the language.
State Rep. Wendell Willard, who authored the legislation, told The Daily Report that “last-minute” changes to the law governing the Judicial Qualifications Commission will actually result in three separate watchdog agencies monitoring judicial discipline through July.
The stumbling block is the effective date to abolish then and replace the JQC, which has been overseeing judicial discipline for more than 40 years. Under the amendment passed by voters last month, the current JQC ceases to exist on June 30, 2017. But its replacement, created by underlying legislation passed in the General Assembly, is supposed to start six months earlier, on Jan. 1.
Rep. Wendell Willard, a Sandy Springs lawyer who chairs the House Judiciary Committee said the admittedly “tricky” incongruities will be resolved by abolishing the current JQC on Dec. 31; creating a new interim agency with different members and different operating rules on or shortly after Jan. 1, 2017; and then on July 1 abolishing that agency in favor of one shaped by as-yet-unwritten legislation.
But he acknowledged that members of the final version of the judicial watchdog agency would likely not secure Senate approval—a requirement of the constitutional amendment approved by the voters earlier this month—until the 2018 legislative session.
The commission’s overhaul earned national attention focused on legislative efforts to replace an independent agency that investigates judges, and replace its members with new members appointed by elected officials.