There are some cases that District Attorney Julia Slater just can’t prosecute.
The reason: She and others in her office either represented or worked for law firms that represented defendants before she took office. If her office prosecuted them, it would be a conflict of interest.
That means special prosecutors must be called in for some 54 cases, and that could potentially mean extra cost.
Under a plan by Chief Muscogee County Superior Court Judge John Allen, though, there may not be extra costs.
“It’s fair to the public. It’s fair to the defendant,” Allen said of the plan. It’s also economical, he added, “because the cost would be nothing.”
Allen said that former assistant district attorneys now working for Solicitor General Ben Richardson could become special prosecutors. They’re already in the county, wouldn’t have to travel out of the six-county circuit to reach a court hearing and there wouldn’t be any additional cost.
“Now, who the special prosecutors will be will not be for me to decide,” Allen said.
Slater said that responsibility belongs to the state attorney general’s office, though the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council coordinates the details. She’s already spoken with both offices.
Private attorneys tapped to be special prosecutors could cost money. Slater doesn’t see why that would be necessary.
“I am really hopeful that that would not be the situation,” she said.
It wasn’t the situation with Ken Hodges, the former Albany district attorney who was a special prosecutor in the Kenneth Walker case. Hodges, now practicing law in Atlanta, said he worked more than 100 hours on the case — and it didn’t cost the state anything.
“It was a part of my duties there,” he said.
Charles Olson, general counsel of the council, said such conflicts are routine. Fifteen years ago it would have been common for attorneys to have been hired to serve as special prosecutors, but that’s now become a rare occurrence.