AJC columnist Jay Bookman pointed out in his column today that judges would like to handle their judicial disciplining behind closed doors. The move to secrecy is important since the Judicial Qualifications Commission has publicly reprimanded 60 judges in Georgia over the last eight years. But now, Bookman writes, judges want to change the process dramatically. In addition to changing how the JQC is appointed, they also want to
… close all future commission proceedings to the public. The public would not be made aware that a complaint had been filed, and it would not have access to the evidence unless the judge in question was found guilty. Proponents claim the secrecy is needed to protect the reputations of judges who are innocent, yet that’s a special privilege not extended to defendants in any courtroom in the state.
The proposed changes will be part of a constitutional amendment on the ballot this November.
Journalists in the state need to make the public aware of these changes toward more secrecy that will make judges less accountable to the public. Ask judges why they should have secret hearings when the public get open trials.
The AJC watchdog Chris Joyner recently wrote about a worrisome practice–council members using their cell phones during open meetings. Opponents in Milton were recently corresponding with a city councilor during public discussions of their the issue, prompting questions of impropriety since Sunshine laws demand most government meetings be totally open.
After the story published, the Georgia Attorney General’s office said that government officials should not text during meetings. But, AG spokesperson Nick Genesi said the Sunshine laws do not expressly forbid the practice:
“The public should demand better behavior from their elected officials,” Nick Genesi said. But, he added, “Right now the current statute doesn’t cover this gross violation of public policy.”
Genesi said his boss wanted to include language reining in the use of technology, such as text messaging, during otherwise public meetings in his rewrite of state sunshine laws four years ago, but he said Olens got resistance from state lawmakers.
We suggest lawmakers amend the law, and journalists in the state keep an out to see if texting while governing is an emerging trend.
I presented this powerpoint in Pakistan back in May. My audiences of students and professors seemed to enjoy it. I was in the country for 25 days as a Fulbright Specialist with the US Department of State. Met a lot of warm welcoming people and made some good relationships. Hope to go back again.