Legislative Immunity

Is about to go the way of the Dodo Bird. From the Telegraph:

A top leader of the Georgia Senate predicted Thursday that lawmakers next year will look to repeal the little-known constitutional provision that Rep. David Graves of Macon says makes him immune from prosecution in a Cobb County DUI case.

“It’s clear that overwhelmingly legislators are embarrassed by the use of this defense and do not claim to be above the law for situations like the Cobb County court case,

7 comments

  1. Ben King says:

    Just out of curiosity, what reasons could there be for keeping the provision? I’m having a hard time thinking why it should even be a statutory measure. Political retribution from an AG, maybe?

    and in the constitution for history’s sake? really? are you suggesting that the constitution is more important as a historical document than as the underpinings of a successful government? isn’t there some way to honor the historical, um, whatever, of this provision while preventing it from actually being used (if that is a route people decided to go. otherwise, leave it in but on the grounds that it is useful, not history’s sake).

    I’m really not trying to be combative, I just really don’t understand what you mean. Why is it old fashioned, not to mess with the constitution? What am I missing here?

  2. I’m actually going to agree with Eric. For example, not voting on a bill can be a valid (if some would think weasely) response to a piece of legislation. I’d hate to see a Speaker or Pro Tem arrest a legislator because they walked out on a vote.

    It seems to me that the system worked fine. Graves made his ridiculous argument and a judge threw it out. Had it gone to the Supreme Court, I have confidence they too would have ruled that it did not apply in this instance.

    The only reason I could see Johnson proposing something like this is to score a cheap publicity stunt (to try and get the moral high ground for the GOP back after Graves personally squandered it) OR to prevent future GOP legislators from pulling the same stunt.

    I definitely don’t think it’s a good idea to change the Constitution (or the law) in order to try to limit the number of ways GOP legislators can make fools of themselves. But I guess that’s the partisan in me talking!

  3. Erick says:

    Thanks Chris. I am told very reliably of a situation this past session where a legislator got into a heated argument with one of the Governor’s aides. The aide threatened to have the legislator arrested.

    No doubt it was an idle threat from a teeny-bopper, but still. As long as that threat can be made, the constitutional provision should remain.

  4. Erick says:

    Also, it was only about 50 years ago that the General Assembly was surrounded by National Guard troops because of a screwy election. Fifty years, not two hundred fifty years.

  5. Porter Bates says:

    The constitution should stand as it is. The judge made the proper ruling–the dinner and drinking party Graves attended was not a “committee meeting” and therefore did not qualify as immunity.

    Graves has embarrassed the entire General Assembly as well as his constituents. I know he wants to hold on to his pharmacy license, but he really ought to resign. Don’t know if a special election could be held before the General Assembly convenes in January, but it would be better if he is not there.

    By the way, he is not a lawyer as reported in the AJC article today, but a pharmacist.

  6. Ben King says:

    Erick, Chris – I totally agree with your points, but wouldn’t a better approach be to prevent a speaker or a president pro tem (or a lt. gov. etc) from being able to arrest a legislator? Or to prevent a governor’s aide from threatening arrest? I could be wrong, and but it seems that the best way to prevent abuse of authority is not to grant someone else _more_ priveleges, but to put a check on whatever the abuse is.

    If everyone is happy that the situation played out as it is supposed to, and that the current law works fine, then there is no discussion. If Graves didn’t abuse the rule, because the system has checks in place that worked, then I guess everything is hunkey dorey. I think I’d prefer not to mess with the constitution on principle, myself, if it can be helped.

    And also like to point out that all of the reasons given make sense, but still don’t answer why preserving it ‘for history’s sake’ would make sense.

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