ATLANTA — A Georgia lawmaker is trying to oust the state House speaker following reports the powerful Republican repeatedly used his position to delay court proceedings for criminal defendants who are clients of his law practice.
A resolution introduced Friday encourages House Speaker David Ralston to resign, accusing him of an “unacceptable abuse of power.” It was filed by a fellow Republican, state Rep. David Clark of Buford.
A recent investigation by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB-TV found Ralston asked judges to reschedule court cases at least 57 times in the past two years. Clients of Ralston’s private law practice who were helped by the delays included men charged with child molestation, assault and drunk driving.
The newspaper reports that 10 GOP legislators have signed onto Clark’s resolution.
Ralston says he’s done nothing wrong.
Georgia law requires judges to reschedule hearings and trials that conflict with the legislative duties of attorneys who also serve in the state legislature.
Ralston, who is from Blue Ridge in the north Georgia mountains, has been House speaker since 2010. The position gives him tremendous influence over proposed changes to state law and how Georgia spends taxpayer money.
“People can take a look at it and sort through the fact from the fiction and see what’s there,” Ralston said, according to the newspaper. “If people want to drop the resolution, it’s certainly a free country to do that.”
Clark said he was particularly upset by the case of a 14-year-old girl who alleged she was raped by a travelling evangelist. Ralston represents the evangelist and has delayed the case in Towns County Superior Court at least eight times by citing his duties as speaker.
“I can’t stay silent when something is being done wrong, especially when these victims are being hurt by our speaker,” Clark said, according to the newspaper. “I’m hoping people have courage and the spine to do what’s right.”
But Clark’s resolution may not get very far in a chamber where Ralston holds great sway, including the ability to assign chairmanships of committees and the power to effectively block legislation.
Former Govs. Roy Barnes and Nathan Deal have voiced support for Ralston, according in the newspaper, as did current Gov. Brian Kemp through a spokeswoman.
Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com