While Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis investigates allegations that then-President Donald Trump interfered with the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, her office also should handle its day-to-day duties, state House Speaker Jon Burns said Thursday.
“They need to make sure they have the resources and bandwidth to take care of both issues,” Burns, R-Newington, told members of the Atlanta Press Club during a luncheon speech in downtown Atlanta.
The special-purpose grand jury Willis empaneled last year to investigate Trump’s alleged role in trying to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia completed its work and issued its findings in December. The portion of the panel’s report Fulton Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney allowed to be released concluded the election results were legitimate and recommended that one or more witnesses who appeared before it be indicted for perjury.
On Thursday, Burns cited remarks Georgia Chief Justice Michael Boggs made on Wednesday in his State of the Judiciary address to a joint session of the General Assembly.
While Boggs’ theme was the huge backlog of criminal cases courts throughout Georgia face in the aftermath of the pandemic, he put some numbers to the backlog in Fulton County. He said Fulton is currently saddled with more than 4,000 pending felony indicted cases and almost 14,000 unindicted felony cases.
Burns made his remarks Thursday while defending legislation the House passed this week calling for the creation of a Prosecuting Attorneys Oversight Commission to investigate complaints against prosecutors and hold hearings.
Democrats have complained legislative Republicans are pushing the bill in response to Willis targeting Trump, a charge Burns rejected by pointing out that judges in Georgia are subject to commission oversight.
“I don’t think our district attorneys in this state should be treated any different than our judges,” he said. “We just want them to adhere to the law and apply it equally to every Georgian.”
During his speech, Burns also praised his House colleagues from both parties for passing legislation following through on last year’s landmark mental-health reform bill steered through the chamber by his predecessor as speaker, the late David Ralston.
“The House has been champions of mental-health reform in this state,” Burns said. “It began with Speaker Ralston.”
Burns, who was elected speaker by his fellow House members in January, also urged the state Senate to follow the House’s lead by passing bills aimed at breaking a legal logjam holding up Georgia’s medical cannabis program, giving tenants more legal rights in dealing with “troubling landlords,” and funding a proposed state police patrol post in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta.
Dave Williams writes for Capitol Beat News Service