A Georgia senior judge this week denied a motion by Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez to dismiss a civil action brought against her by Athens business owner Jarrod Miller that seeks a judicial order, called a writ of mandamus, compelling Gonzalez to enforce the laws of the state. Gonzalez, who is responsible for prosecuting criminal cases in Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties , has a stated policy of not prosecuting certain nonviolent offenses, which is in keeping with her philosophy of restorative justice. In response, Gonzalez issued the following statement:
I am deeply disappointed in Judge Emerson’s order denying the dismissal of the writ of mandamus. It is apparent that the arguments of the dismissal request were not properly considered, nor was the existing law properly applied. The decision effectively endorses the misuse of the writ of mandamus to deprive me and my office of our prosecutorial discretion and our obligations to make decisions in the public’s best interest instead of one discontented citizen’s personal beliefs.
How or which alleged crimes to indict or try, how to prioritize felonies over misdemeanors, how to offer or determine pleas, and/or how to advise or use a grand jury are all choices that fall squarely within the broad prosecutorial discretion afforded to all District Attorneys in this State and here in Athens-Clarke County.
If Mr. Miller is successful, permitting this action to proceed effectively means a superior court judge, whom the citizens of this District did not elect, will be “looking over my shoulder” going forward every day to decide if I am doing my job in a manner that the judge agrees with. The consequence is the disenfranchisement of you, the voter’s choice, and the policies you, the voters, endorsed through the electoral process. It does not bode well for any elected official and, if permitted to continue, shows how easily the mandamus writ could be weaponized for political gain.
In light of my disagreement with the judge’s order, my legal team has asked to be granted a certificate of immediate review so that I may request that the Georgia Court of Appeals be given an opportunity to
rule on these issues now. The judge has until May 19th, 2023, to rule on whether he will permit me to appeal the decision at this time.