Call to impeach Georgia AG is way off base

In the latest fallout from last month’s passage of the massive federal health care legislation, a number of Republican Georgia state legislators have called officially for the impeachment of the state’s Democratic attorney general, Thurbert Baker.  The reason for this extreme measure?  The attorney general disagrees with Republican state officials calling for the Peach State to join in filing a legal challenge to the new law.

Georgia’s lame-duck Republican Governor Sonny Perdue has indicated he will join with some 14 other governors in suing the feds over the mandates contained in the trillion-dollar, multi-thousand page legislation.  Last week, shortly after the president signed the legislation into law, Perdue formally requested that Baker initiate steps to follow the lead of Florida’s attorney general and a dozen others already suing Washington.  But, after concluding that the law passes constitutional muster and that a legal challenge likely would fail, Baker exercised his discretion and declined the governor’s invitation.  (The governor will still be able to mount a challenge, by using outside lawyers.)

Even though 36  governors out of 50 thus far have decided not to join in the constitutional challenge to the health care law, the decision by the Georgia attorney general to cast his lot with that majority is seen by at least several Republicans in the General Assembly as a serious dereliction of his duties as the state’s top lawyer.

As noted in this blog earlier this week, the constitutionality of the health care law needs to be challenged.  Notwithstanding the uphill trek such lawsuits face, the extent to which the new law improperly expands federal power over state and individual liberty, requires that its provisions not go unchallenged.  However, seeking to punish an attorney, especially a constitutional officer such as a state attorney general, simply because his professional judgment has led him to a contrary conclusion, is highly inappropriate and diminishes the credibility of those advocating such a measure to have their views on the law prevail.

56 comments Add your comment

Road Scholar

April 2nd, 2010
6:34 am

Question: How many people/entities does it take to file a suit?
Answer: One!

Question: What does adding others to the suit do?
Answer: Nothing! A lawsuits viability has nothing to do with the number of people filing suit.

Surprised by the Governor’s and legislature’s actions? No! This is a state government that has accomplished nothing over the past years unless you want to count a larger state government, increased funding for the legislature/legislation, Go Fish!,etc.

jt

April 2nd, 2010
6:57 am

Impeachment is a bit much, but to have a democrat/politician/lawyer like Baker claim that his concerns are for tax-payer money is absurd.

Where were his concerns when he legislated for ACORN?

That cost Georgian tax-payers millions.

The voters will take care of this issue.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

April 2nd, 2010
7:23 am

Well argued. I think the suit has a reasonable chance of success, but I agree that Mr. Baker’s analysis is not patently wrong. I would have no difficulty with an impeachment for incompetence or for dereliction of duty, but Mr. Baker’s “sin” certainly does not rise to that level. I think filing a bill for impeachment, in absence of a reasonable belief of a genuine violation of duty or law, ought to have consequences for the filer.

No More Progressives!

April 2nd, 2010
8:08 am

The AG is an elected position in GA, is it not? What if the AG wanted to sue, and the Govenor told him no (as in Wisconsin)?

bob bray

April 2nd, 2010
8:12 am

and if said suit also destroys medcare/medcade?and well as peach care? will the GOP campain on this victory? also will i still have to pay my auto insurance ? the GOP had it all for 6 years and what did they do productive for health care? Saxby’’s biggest win?getting june as watermellon month ! hey saxby i want the same health care plan you got at the same price you pay .lynn?hello keeping hanging out in tenn they love ya there .how about OTB to pay for peach care? like the lottery pays for schools?

PopPop

April 2nd, 2010
8:13 am

Impeachment is am emergency measure that removes an elected official without having to eait for election day before they can do more damage.

Where does the electorate stand?

If Baker isn’t responding to the needs of the state as a whole then he should be impeached;.

Scout

April 2nd, 2010
8:14 am

Hummmmm ……….. this is a tough one (and I think there was an earlier Ga. Supreme Court case that said that Georgia AG’s were independent) but I don’t like it.

The Governor is the top elected official in the state and in my opinion the AG should follow his orders unless illegal, unethical or immoral.

There are many Assistant District Attorneys around the state who may not like the way a particular criminal case “looks” for a successful prosecution but if the District Attorney (their boss) tells them to go for it guess what? They are fired if they won’t.

go fly

April 2nd, 2010
8:16 am

@Bob – It’s “Medicaid”, “campaign”, and “watermelon”. I believe most computers have spell check these days.

The Snark

April 2nd, 2010
8:22 am

Hey JT:

Baker “legislated for ACORN”? What in the &*^% are you talking about? The Attorney General doesn’t “legislate” anything. And I don’t think he or his office have ever had anything to do with ACORN.

Looks like all the generic rightwing talk radio insults are getting mushed up in your imagination.

StJ

April 2nd, 2010
8:40 am

Is the AG legally obligated to obey the Governor’s instructions? If so, the impeachment call has merit. If not, the call for impeachment is purely politically motivated and they should leave him alone.

Byron Mathison Kerr

April 2nd, 2010
8:43 am

Impeachment efforts are a completely irresponsible and unproductive diversion from the scope of problems at the state level that state representatives are charged with addressing. The health care reform debate was ratcheted-up to the point of an intense gridlock that defied any kind of reality. This whole impeachment initiative is just the result of misplaced frustration.

Now health care reform opposition legislators are starting to ease down and even debrief their constituents, i.e., admission of no death panels, etc. Hopefully, we can all gradually return to a more normal level of bickering and sniping.

No More Progressives!

April 2nd, 2010
8:49 am

You’re right, Scout.

Too many Chiefs; not enough Indians.

The Udder Side!!!

April 2nd, 2010
8:53 am

jt

April 2nd, 2010
6:57 am

I agree with Snark…..Please tell us when the AG “Legislated” on behalf of ACORN????

Keep up the good fight!

April 2nd, 2010
8:55 am

StJ….the impeachment bill sponsor claims that the AG is “required” under the state constitution to obey a formal request of the governor…however the AG is also an officer of the court and has legal/ethical duties. An attorney should exercise independent judgment from that of the client. This can get into a very complicated ethical/duty analysis and I have not looked at the case law. I suspect the bill sponsor, an attorney, has also not done so, as he might have had this been filed a judicial action in a court. I seem to recall that there has been at least one case before where Baker did not do the “bidding” of the governor and the court upheld that independence.

In this case, the client is the state and the AG should exercise independent judgment as part of the separation of government powers. The governor (not an attorney) should not be able to demand that someone be prosecuted or that other action be taken merely for political purposes. The AG should never be the lap dog of the governor.

Of course, judicial action, when taken, should be based on good legal analysis of the law not on politics.

Chris Broe

April 2nd, 2010
8:58 am

Participating plaintiffs in the lawsuit include attorneys general from Florida, Virginia, South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Louisiana, Alabama, Michigan, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Washington State, Idaho, and South Dakota. The suing attorneys general are Republicans except James “Buddy” Caldwell of Louisiana, who is a Democrat.

The question is: How many governors joining the lawsuit are up for reelection? (All but three, Washington, Virginia and Louisiana). Certainly participants in this legal test defne the lunatic fringe. Until now, the wingnuts were more of a theory than flesh and blood.

Now we know better. There are wingnuts. The loose cannons of the GOP. The lunatic fringe is real. If there’s going to be a November backlash, America will define itself by the last governors standing.

Today’s encouraging jobs report was not good news for Republicans. A growing economy will kill GOP chances in November; especially if voters remember who joined this lawsuit. (which they wont because voters have a fourteen second attention span).

Oh well. Jobs!

Scout

April 2nd, 2010
9:03 am

Great Quote:

“Surely something must be terribly wrong with a man who seems to be far more concerned with a Jew building a house in Israel than with Muslims building a nuclear bomb in Iran.”

Columnist Burt Prelutsky, LA Times

Swede Atlanta

April 2nd, 2010
9:09 am

Without doing any research in case law I think there is an argument to be made that the AG’s refusal is inconsistent with the Georgia Constitution.

Paragraph IV . Attorney General; duties. The Attorney General shall act as the legal advisor of the executive department, shall represent the state in the Supreme Court in all capital felonies and in all civil and criminal cases in any court when required by the Governor, and shall perform such other duties as shall be required by law .

So the AG SHALL (not MAY0 represent the state ….in any court…when required by the Governor. That language suggests if Sonny asks the AG to file a suit and represent the state, the AG is constitutionally obligated to do so.

That does seem inconsistent then with the way in which the AG is selected. If he was appointed such as the AG of the U.S., he/she clearly serve at the will of the executive. But since we elect our AG, I think there is an argument to be made that he/she is accountable to the voters and not the Governor.

Regardless of this issue I believe the HCR bill will be found constitutional and this would be a waste of time and money. I’m not clear why mandatory participation (with some limited exceptions) in social security is constitutional but not participation in a health insurance program. Yes, one is collected through a tax and the other in the purchase of a good but the end result is largely the same. The delivery of health insurance will be provided by a private party but that is the only real substantive difference I see.

Big Dude

April 2nd, 2010
9:10 am

Welcome to the South…Screw the law, i want to be elected!!! Chikensh..!

Byron Mathison Kerr

April 2nd, 2010
9:12 am

To Scout, April 2nd, 2010, 9:03 am:

And I guess something is wrong with the man who can’t see how closely these two issues are related.

Louie

April 2nd, 2010
9:16 am

jackhammer,respond…..

Keep up the good fight!

April 2nd, 2010
9:17 am

ACORN is just another wing nut straw fight…….. so far, no criminal charges. The tapes were edited to make the innocent look guilty……but of course Fox Noise does not tell ya that! Any evidence that “ACORN cost georgia millions”?

@poppop — judicial system should be a popular vote for guilt…..it is about trials, evidence, rules of law, fairness and justice….. Not American Idol for Courts.

@Scout…..your example if the DA ordering a ADA to do something is a lawyer talking to his staff….even so there are legal/ethical obligations for both. A DA cannot order a ADA to use perjured testimony….if the DA did, the ADA would have to refuse or take appropriate action but not use it.

A DA and ADA do look at what the cops bring as evidence and make an independent judgment if there is a case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Swede Atlanta

April 2nd, 2010
9:18 am

Ref Scout

Why does this writer suggest the Obama is more concerned with expansion of Jewish settlements contrary to the will of the international community than trying to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons which is also against the will of the international community?

Where is his proof? He doesn’t give any because there is none.

Obama’s administration has been trying different approaches with Iran. Bush’s consistent stick approach didn’t work so it was time to try something different. Having tried limited engaegment with the Iranians with no success they will return to more of a stick approach with stiffer sanctions. Ultimately I think the only way this will be resolved will be through direct engagement with Iran. But to suggets the administration hasn’t been actively engaged in or working on Iran is a lie.

And I for one believe the U.S. needs to cut back all forms of aid to Israel until they stop expanding settlements in the occupied territories. Successive U.S. administrations have been opposed to expansion but the Israelis take money with one hand and expand settlements with the other. If the U.S., as Israel’s financial backer, is opposed to something, then Israel needs to either heed our wishes or suffer the consequences.

retiredds

April 2nd, 2010
9:40 am

Bob, I agree with you on this. And, according to many eminent Constitutional scholars, it is doubtful that the suits can win. That does not mean that some shouldn’t sue if they feel strongly on the issue. I do have a suggestion though. Those who want the governor to sue they should start a PAC or fund and donate to their cause. This way they get to join in the suit and support it and those who don’t support it, like me, don’t have to have my money wasted on something I disagree with.

middler and so tired of all the rhetoric :

April 2nd, 2010
9:49 am

Why has it become right to throw out our democracy, and our republic bulwarks? Violence can be threatened and carried out when you disagree with someone politically? When one party has been in the majority for years and our economy tanks, we become mired in war, we lose our standing among other civilized societies, the haves get to have it all on the backs of the majority and then, when we elect (us, not the Supreme Court) somebody to fix things, all we get from the new minority is obstructionism and a degeneration into monumental sour grapes. We now have a doctor who won’t treat Obama supporters. Our president, remember? Vote him out but respect the office while he holds it. Oh, and Doctor, how about foregoing all medicaid, medicare, and other governmental compensation? Do you hold any federal accreditation or licenses? Renounce them. And do you have outstanding school loans from the government? How about paying them back, immediately and in full? Have you read the healthcare bill? Have you had your accountant and business manager review it and it’s genuine impact on your practice?

Louie

April 2nd, 2010
9:49 am

Enter your comments here

annej

April 2nd, 2010
9:54 am

shame on you sonny are you on the band wagon about the health care law see plan not the man (MR. PRES) or could you be RACIST ummm just like someone voted for you or was that FIXED some thing to think about ummm

Keith

April 2nd, 2010
9:59 am

With all due respect, Mr. Barr, YOU are way off base. Mr. Baker has forgotten who he is supposed to represent…he doesn’t represent the Obama administration, Nancy Pelosi, or Harry Reid. He is supposed to represent the people of Georgia. He is required to sue if Gov. Perdue tells him to under the powers granted to him in the Georgia Constitution.
You, sir, of all people should know that the federal government has only certain powers granted to in under the US Constitution. Perhaps you need a reminder. Georgia Senate Resolution 632 spells it out.
And by the way, Gov. Perdue can probably claim that he brought more jobs to Georgia than you did as an elected official. Who is really the “lame-duck” here?

H. Hildebrandt

April 2nd, 2010
10:03 am

Scout and others:

You are total and complete morons. You are embarrassments to the human race. Please step away from your computers.

Thurbert Baker declined because there is no legal case to make that is winnable. He doesn’t want to waste taxpayer money (fiscal conservation, in case you didn’t catch that) and man-hours on a political stunt.

You lose. Get over it.

Karl Marx

April 2nd, 2010
10:03 am

This is a total waste of time and money. The Gov will appoint a special attorney which if we are going to sue is the right thing to do.

No More Progressives!

April 2nd, 2010
10:32 am

Karl Marx

April 2nd, 2010
10:03 am
This is a total waste of time and money. The Gov will appoint a special attorney which if we are going to sue is the right thing to do.

Yes. And pro bono, too. So why should we pay Bakers salary as if he were “working?”

Tony

April 2nd, 2010
10:45 am

Total waste of time. In Georgia, the AG does NOT serve at the pleasure of the governor. It is an independent elected position.
The AG is completely correct in his reading of the law w/ regards to the frivolity of these health care lawsuits. Even with our currently conservative SCOTUS, the law as written does pass constitutional muster although alot of folks don’t like it.
Constitutional issues are not decided based upon whether people like something or not; rather whether a law, as written, satisfies the tenets contained within the constitution. In this case, the health care act and it’s financial precepts are based upon the federal government’s constitutional authority to levy taxes upon the states and their citizens. Nothing else.
My suggestion is simply this: If the governor and friends want to sue,fine. If they lose, they must personally reimburse the state for the wasted money. I’d bet these things would be thought out much more carefully if this was the case. Election year politics wouldn’t rule the day as much as common sense.

Scout

April 2nd, 2010
10:52 am

To Swede, Keep up the Good Fight & Byron Mathison Kerr :

I hear you and thanks for your input on the various issues I raised but alas we must agree to disagree.

BTW: I retired from an agency where we would get to read the various intelligence reports on world leaders who visited the U.S. I would give a month’s retirement pay to be able to read the classified Israeli intelligence report on Obama. That would be a real eye opener.

ajax

April 2nd, 2010
11:07 am

Road Scholar:

actually, you are wrong in that. The Supreme Court often decides cases not based upon a disagreement with the facts (by the time it gets there, the facts are pretty well flushed out), or confusion about the law, but rather, they often decide their cases based upon public policy considerations (which is why you see a split between repub and democrat). so, the more states that join the larger the public policy issues.

Peter

April 2nd, 2010
11:26 am

Can someone name something Positive Sonny has done besides get richer while in office ?

Ivan Cohen

April 2nd, 2010
11:30 am

The attorney general chose not to follow the “herd” mentality of other states to sue the federal government because they feel that the health care bill was rammed down their throats, yet these states have residents who are placed between a rock and a hard place regarding accessible medical care. Their lawsuit says to those with no medical coverage well…….. you’re expendable.

southernbutnotstupid

April 2nd, 2010
12:15 pm

For all you people bemoaning that Baker should file the suit as he was elected to represent the people, here’s a cue – he was elected BY the people and had a “D” by his name – it’s called checks and balances – they can vote him out next time if they don’t want him in there–

DITTOhead: AJC Truth Detector

April 2nd, 2010
12:17 pm

GO FOR IT GOVERNOR PURDUE………GO FOR IT…GO FOR IT…DON’t LISTEN TO BARR & his leftist buddies…….IMPEACH THE GEORGIA A.G……….IMPEACH HIM..

DITTOhead: AJC Truth Detector

April 2nd, 2010
12:17 pm

GO FOR IT GOVERNOR PURDUE………GO FOR IT…GO FOR IT…DON’t LISTEN TO BARR & his leftist buddies…….IMPEACH THE GEORGIA A.G……….IMPEACH HIM..

Chris Broe

April 2nd, 2010
12:22 pm

All but three of the governors challenging the constitutionality of the bill are up for reelection. This is a dangerous play for them if they’ve read voter sentiment wrongly.

Only one is a democrat, and he’s not up for reelection. (Louisiana).

The letters sent to all of our governors warning them to leave office or be removed are very disturbing. I think Rush/Beck has spawned anti-government fever to a pitch not seen since the Whiskey Rebellion.

How many Timothy McVeighs are out there?

Georgian

April 2nd, 2010
1:00 pm

Keith,

Gov. Perdue has not brought jobs to Georgia. More large companies and jobs have left Georgia with no replacement. Former President Carter brought the Kia plant to Georgia.

Georgia’s unemployment rate is among the highest in the country. They have had more banks failed than any state in the country. The bank failures were due to your state elected officials sitting on many of the small banks board. Let’s not forget that Georgia’s education system is ranked third from the bottom in the country.

Gov. Perdue ran for governor on the idea of replacing the Georgia State Flag back to the old Confederate Flag. As you can see that was not done, even with Republican majority legislators.

Only thing Gov. Perdue has done is make himself richer off his land deals and take overseas trips off of the tax payers, which did not accomplish anything. Also, what happened to the large DOT surplus, that became a DOT deficit, with no road projects. Ask Gov. Perdue because he appointed the Chairman of DOT.

Keith, an Attorney General’s job is not to bring jobs to a state.

Swede Atlanta

April 2nd, 2010
1:07 pm

Tony @ 10:45.

See my post from 9:09. Without further research I’m not sure about Baker’s refusal to do as the governor requested. I agree the AG is elected independently and why would you have them elected independently and not appointed if they worked essentially at the pleasure of the governor.

But the Ga. constitution states that the AG ’shall’ represent the governor in all cases, civil and criminal.

Well if the AG isn’t representing himself but rather the governor then it seems logical that it is the governor that makes policy decisions, with the advice of the AG, regarding these cases.

It seems the manner of election and the description of the AG’s role and responsibilities leave this matter open for consideration.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

April 2nd, 2010
2:39 pm

Dear Swede @ 1:07, forgive me a strained metaphor. The law permits abortions. A hospital may perform abortions. However, an individual doctor may refrain from performing an abortion due to personal beliefs. It would be wrong for the hospital to attempt to compel the doctor to perform an abortion, and it would be wrong for the hospital to terminate the doctor’s contract prematurely entirely for his failure to perform an act contrary to his conscience.

[...] Call to impeach Georgia AG is way off baseAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)… on this victory? also will i still have to pay my auto insurance ? the GOP had it all for 6 years and what did they do productive for health care? … [...]

We should have Impeached Bush

April 2nd, 2010
8:35 pm

WOW. Never thought I would read a Bob blog stating the obvious. The suit will not stand and the tax payer will bear the burden. Gezz people read the bill. You should know whats in it and what not in it.

Rightwing Troll

April 3rd, 2010
6:09 am

“The Governor is the top elected official in the state and in my opinion the AG should follow his orders unless illegal, unethical or immoral. ”

There’s the rub… is it ethical to waste taxpayer money when the result of the suit affects us whether we spend the money or not? Should GA school children go wanting while the AG spend millions of taxpayer dollars on a lawsuit when it doesn’t matter one whit whether we are in on it or not?

Or are you who want it suggesting that the demcratic AG of georgia is smarter than the AG’s of 14 other states and this lawsuit won’t succeed w/o his lawyering acumen involved?

Are You Smarter than a 2 Term Gov?

April 3rd, 2010
7:17 am

I finally figured it out! Republicans want to cut spending, cut taxes, and cut waste unless THEY are the ones wasting taxpayer money.

jconservative

April 3rd, 2010
8:11 am

The AG in Georgia is an independent Constitutionally elected officer of the State. He does not obey instructions from anyone. Period.

If you do not like him, vote for someone else. If you prefer a weak AG who can be bossed around by the Governor, vote for someone like that.
There are a couple running.

No More Progressives!

April 4th, 2010
6:27 am

We should have Impeached Bush

April 2nd, 2010
8:35 pm
WOW. Never thought I would read a Bob blog stating the obvious. The suit will not stand and the tax payer will bear the burden. Gezz people read the bill. You should know whats in it and what not in it.

Do YOU know what’s in it? I doubt it, becuase the people that wrote the bill don’t know what’s in it.

Slight of hand, as it were.

cosmos

April 4th, 2010
8:25 am

AG Baker made the right call. There is virtually no chance a suit would win and we should not be wasting taxpayer’s money at a time when the state is in financial trouble. Baker has handled himself with class and dignity on this issue. I say we impeach the governor instead for grandstanding.

Reader

April 4th, 2010
8:59 am

If only Mr. Baker had been consistent throughout his career. You see, Mr. Baker was given a grade of A from ACORN in 2008 precisely because he is an activist attorney general who spent taxpayer money in pursuit of ACORN’s legislative and judicial agenda. Mr. Baker’s grade of A is shown on page four of ACORN’s report.

ACORN’s highest grades were awarded to attorneys general “pursuing cutting-edge cases.” ACORN’s favorite attorney general did not worry about frivolous cases, because “in the near future as more legal theories get tested in different states, there will be additional case law established to provide a guide for attorneys general to take legal action.”

Concern for taxpayer money being spent by attorney general? That was obviously never a concern to ACORN’s AGs such as Mr. Baker who were praised for “putting their offices to work for distressed borrowers,” and “devoting additional resources to the issue.”

ACORN knew to rely on activist AGs such as Mr. Baker. In its report, ACORN wrote

While Congress and some governors have grabbed headlines for some of their modest reactions to the foreclosure crisis, there is another critical and largely untold story of the innovative and impactful leadership that many states’ attorneys general have demonstrated in their diverse responses to the crises in their states.

I wonder how much taxpayer money General Baker spent pursuing ACORN’s agenda rather than protecting the Constitution?