Edward Tolley, Ga. Public Defender Standards Council. Photo By John Disney 12-02-2011
Edward Tolley, Ga. Public Defender Standards Council. Photo By John Disney 12-02-2011 (John Disney)

Gov. Nathan Deal has appointed Athens attorney Edward Tolley as the new chairman—and the governor’s sole appointee—to the Judicial Qualifications Commission, the state’s judicial watchdog.

Deal made the appointment in an executive order signed Jan. 5. Tolley’s appointment is subject to confirmation by the state Senate.

Tolley told the Daily Report, “I appreciate the governor putting his confidence in me and asking me to serve as the first appointed chairman of the new JQC.” He said he expects the new commissioners will be in place by the end of the month.  “Our goal is a simple one,” he said, “and that is to follow whatever law the legislature passes.” 

Tolley is a holdover member from the former commission, which was abolished Jan. 1 by a constitutional amendment approved by the voters last November. Last summer, the State Bar of Georgia named Tolley to the JQC after bar appointee—and then-chairman—Lester Tate resigned. The new enabling law that gives the Georgia General Assembly sole authority to recreate the JQC stripped the bar of its appointment powers, although the bar may provide lists of potential candidates to the lieutenant governor and House speaker, who are not bound to accept the recommendations. But Tolley’s appointment by Deal does give the bar an unofficial seat on the JQC.

The Daily Report has contacted Deal administration staff by telephone and by email seeking comment about Tolley’s appointment but has not received a response.

After Tolley joined the JQC last summer, he became one of its most visible members. He was one of two commissioners—including the JQC’s former longtime investigator, Richard Hyde—who are members of an ad-hoc committee chaired by state Supreme Court Justice David Nahmias that has been rewriting the commission’s operating rules. The committee is also drafting amendments to the new law that would dramatically restructure the JQC based on an American Bar Association model.

Tolley testified about the committee’s work at a September hearing convened by state House Judiciary Committee Chairman Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, who led the push last year to abolish the JQC as an independent constitutional agency.