A Republican in the state house has filed a resolution calling for House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) to step down after a recent news investigation into Ralston’s day job as a lawyer.
According to the AJC, Ralston used a Georgia law that he helped write to repeatedly postpone court dates for clients charged with child molestation, child cruelty, assault, terroristic threats and drunk driving, among other things.
Rep. David Clark (R-Buford) filed HR 328 Friday afternoon calling for Ralston’s resignation. Reps. Kevin Cooke (R-Carrollton), David Stover (R-Newnan ), Jeff Jones (R-Brunswick ), Sheri Gilligan (R-Cumming), Matt Gurtler (R-Tiger), Michael Caldwell (R-Woodstock), Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs) and Colton Moore (R-Trenton) all signed on to the resolution. Rep. Karen Mathiak (R-Griffin) originally signed but removed her signature after it was filed with the clerk’s office.
Leaving the House chamber later in the afternoon, Clark spoke with reporters about why he was challenging the speaker, a move considered to be politically damaging.
“I’ll always be Republican… I’ve been that since a young boy because of what the party is,” Clark said. “But I can’t stay silent when something is being done wrong. Especially when there’s victims who are being hurt by our Speaker who’s abusing his power.”
Clark, who is the chairman of the Interstate Cooperation committee, said that his resolution is about seeking justice for the alleged victims of crimes that may not see their day in court.
“I just can’t say silent, I can’t,” Clark said. “I’m not somebody who wants to come out and do these things, I hate it, but my thing is it’s how I was raised.
While the resolution has little public support and Ralston has not indicated he will leave his post, Clark said he things the law allowing these repeated continuances should be changed.
The Georgia code section, O.C.G.A § 17-8-26, says that a member of the Georgia General Assembly who is “party to or attorney for a party to a case which is pending” shall be granted a continuance of the case during any legislative session or special session and the first three weeks after the end of a session.
But part (b) of the code also says attorneys in the General Assembly can be granted continuance during times the lawmaker’s “presence elsewhere is required by his or her duties with the General Assembly.”
The AJC reports as Speaker, Ralston has held off cases for over a decade in some cases by citing things ranging from party meetings to speeches to luncheons as reasons to continue cases.
The Legislature is exempted from the Georgia Open Records Act, so the Speaker does not have to release his schedule or calendar to show his whereabouts.
The longtime speaker has not appeared to be concerned with calls for his ouster, telling reporters after Friday’s session he wasn’t worried about his job.
“I’m worried about getting home, having a good weekend [and] getting back down here,” Ralston said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do and it’s not about me, it’s about getting the work done for the people of Georgia.”
Ralston said he doesn’t follow what’s been introduced or not until it makes it to his desk, which in this case would be Monday morning.
In the wake of this report, he’s enjoyed public support from former Governors Nathan Deal and Roy Barnes and Republican leadership in the House.
In a statement, Gov. Brian Kemp's office said he looks forward to working with Ralston and the General Assembly “to advance policies that spur economic opportunity, protect Georgia values, and put patients first.”
And former gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams (who worked with Ralston while she was minority leader) told WABE that it was up to the Speaker to make a decision about his role as both lawyer and legislator.