Mary Margaret Oliver (File photo)
Seven state representatives have been tapped to serve on the special “study committee” established earlier this year to look into operations of Georgia’s judicial watchdog agency.
Those appointed by the speaker of the House to serve on the Special Study Committee on Judicial Qualifications Commission Reform include six lawyers. All but one is a Republican; the committee’s sole Democrat is also the only woman. The list includes some of the most powerful legislators in the state House of Representatives, including its longest-serving Republican legislator and the chairmen of the House Judiciary Committee, Rules Committee, and Ways and Means Committee.
The study committee members are:
• Wendell Willard, R- Sandy Springs
Willard, who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, sponsored a proposed constitutional amendment to abolish the Judicial Qualifications Commission as an independent constitutional agency and shepherded it through the legislature. The amendment would give the General Assembly sole authority to reconstitute the judicial watchdog agency, and determine its composition and its governance. Willard also pushed for passage of the resolution establishing the committee, giving it subpoena power and authorizing the investigation.
• Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur
Oliver, who co-sponsored Willard’s legislative package, is a former House Judiciary Committee chairwoman and chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee as a state senator. Oliver, who often seconded Willard’s motions for passage as the bills and resolutions worked their way through the General Assembly, is also from the district that includes DeKalb County Superior Court, where former Judge Cynthia Becker—a target of a JQC ethics complaint last year—presided.
• Trey Kelley, R-Cedartown
Kelley, a member of the judiciary committee, is chairman of the Polk County Republican Party and chaired Gov. Nathan Deal’s 2010 and 2014 gubernatorial campaigns in Polk County.
• John Meadows, R-Calhoun
Meadows, chairman of the House Rules Committee and a judiciary committee member, is a six-term legislator representing Gordon and Murray counties.
• Jay Powell, R-Camilla
Powell, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, represents Colquitt, Decatur and Mitchell counties in southwest Georgia. Named this year by Georgia Trend Magazine as one of its 100 Most Influential Georgians, Powell is also a member of the judiciary committee.
• Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs
Ehrhart is the state’s longest-serving Republican legislator and a former national chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). He is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and five appropriations subcommittees and chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education.
• Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville
Coomer, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, is a former member of the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps and serves as a JAG officer in the Georgia Air National Guard. He is also a member of the House Non-Civil Judiciary Committee.