Politics

Legal Expert Says DA Fani Willis Still in ‘Grave Danger’

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.


Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis narrowly survived her disqualification hearing earlier this year and will be allowed to continue on the case against former President Donald Trump — but she’s not in the clear yet.

At the time, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee decided not to disqualify Willis from leading the Trump case, provided that she got rid of her romantic partner, Nathan Wade, who has since stepped away.

In light of McAfee’s criticism of Willis’s actions, legal experts now believe that her case against Trump and her career would both benefit from her resignation. Even though the judge did not find Willis guilty of perjury or financial misconduct involving Wade, the judge did note that her actions were troubling.

McAfee hinted at an “odor of mendacity” in Willis’s testimony concerning her relationship with Wade, who resigned in response to the judge’s remarks. There are eighteen co-defendants in the case against Trump, which centers on allegations of a conspiracy to sway the 2020 presidential election.

Willis may face challenges to her law license from the State Bar of Georgia, even though the ruling permits her to pursue the case. Based on available information, experts do not believe the challenges will succeed, but Willis may encounter resistance from other state regulators.

Shortly after the decision, trial attorney and adjunct professor Andrew George of the Georgetown Law Center said, “She survived today; she survived this opinion, but this is not going away.”

“The scrutiny is going to only build and build because her presentation and Mr. Wade’s presentation during this process were not convincing.” George continued, “If it were proven that she lied under oath, I think that would be grounds for disbarment. However, that would probably require more proof than currently exists.”

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Three judges of the appeals court, who were chosen by Republican governors, will decide whether Willis should be removed from Fulton County’s case against Trump and others.

The Georgia Court of Appeals officially accepted the case, and the designations followed. October 4th was the preliminary date set for oral arguments.

A computer generated random selection process was used to assign judges Todd Markle, Trenton Brown, and Benjamin Land to hear what is expected to be the most high-profile appeal in the court’s history.

The judges selected to hear a high-profile appeal were Todd Markle, Trenton Brown, and Benjamin Land.

Judge Brown took Judge Yvette Miller’s place on the panel after she recused herself from the case.

Former Democratic Governor Roy Barnes appointed Yvette Miller, the first black woman to serve on the appeals court. It is unclear why Miller stepped aside, but she is retiring at the end of the year.

As noted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the three judges who will hear the case all served as trial judges before being appointed to the appellate court:

–Markle, who was appointed to the court by Gov. Nathan Deal in 2018, is a former Fulton County Superior Court judge.

–Land, who was appointed to the bench two years ago by Gov. Brian Kemp, is a former Superior Court judge for the six-county Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit in West Georgia.

–Brown, appointed by Deal in 2018, served as a Superior Court judge for the eight-county Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit in central Georgia.

Though most cases heard by the court are settled without oral arguments, the three-judge panel is expected to hear arguments on this appeal.

Ashleigh Merchant, a Marietta attorney, has announced that she will ask the court to hear oral arguments on behalf of Mike Roman, one of Trump’s 14 remaining co-defendants in the racketeering case. Merchant filed in January as the first defense lawyer to move for Willis’ disqualification in the case.

It is anticipated that the panel will not render a ruling before November’s presidential election.

The Georgia Constitution requires a decision to be made within two terms of court; thus, the justices would have to decide by mid-March 2025. Though most cases are decided about eight and a half months after they are first docketed, the judges may agree to expedite the process.

Among the busiest courts in the nation is the appeals court. Though most of the present membership was appointed by serving governors and then reelected, the group’s fifteen members are nonpartisan and elected to six-year terms in staggered elections.

The announcement was made shortly after the appeals court received thousands of pages of background documents from the clerk of the Fulton Superior Court. Copies of the indictment, bond orders for the nine defendants who requested an appeal, earlier court filings, and decisions from Judge McAfee were among the documents.

Transcripts of the evidentiary hearing from February, which featured sworn evidence from Willis and Nathan Wade—the former special prosecutor whose amorous relationship with the DA sparked the defendants’ attempt to have the whole office removed from the case—were also sent by the court.

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