When a State Legislator is Indicted

Before we begin, a reminder that everyone accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty.

Over on the podcast Pye, Buzz, Shepherd, and myself discussed at length the Fani Willis indictment of Donald Trump and 18 others for their alleged role in a myriad of of acts she claims amounts to a conspiracy to be charged under Georgia’s RICO statute. We each gave our own takes on what it means for State Senator Shawn Still, who offered himself as one of the alternate electors, to be included in the indictment when so many of the others were not.

It is an interesting side note that Senator Still was regular citizen Shawn Still, and had not been elected to office at the time of the election brouhaha.

Senator Still has found himself charged with several felonies as a result of Fani Willis’s indictment. In my opinion, including him now that he has an elected title when so many others were left off adds fuel to the claims that DA Willis is politically motivated. Senator Still provides a high profile target and his inclusion has real world implications for his work in the State Senate in the coming legislative session.

So what happens next? Does Senator Still get to remain in office while under indictment? The answer can be found in Article II, Section III, Paragraph 1, subparagraph b of the Georgia State Constitution.

“Upon indictment for a felony by a grand jury of this state or by the United States, which felony indictment relates to the performance or activities of the office of any public official… the Governor… shall, subject to subparagraph (d) of this Paragraph, appoint a review commission… If the indicted public official is a member of the General Assembly, the commission shall be composed of the Attorney General and one member of the Senate and one member of the House of Representatives. … The commission shall provide for a speedy hearing, including notice of the nature and cause of the hearing, process for obtaining witnesses, and the assistance of counsel. Unless a longer period of time is granted by the appointing authority, the commission shall make a written report within 14 days. If the commission determines that the indictment relates to and adversely affects the administration of the office of the indicted public official and that the rights and interests of the public are adversely affected thereby, the Governor… shall suspend the public official immediately and without further action pending the final disposition of the case or until the expiration of the officer’s term of office, whichever occurs first. “

Georgia State Constitution

Emphasis is mine. Perhaps some of our legal scholars can weigh in with the implications of that particular clause.

So here is the TL;DR version. 14 days from the time Fani Willis officially notified Governor Kemp of Senator Still’s indictment, the Governor will most likely appoint a review commission to consider the Senator’s status. One lucky House member and one State Senator will join Attorney General Carr on the commission. If they collectively vote that the indictment will interfere with Senator Still’s ability to do his job, the Governor will suspend Senator Still without pay.

If the Senator is suspended, the state constitution spells out that a special election would be called to fill in for him until the suspension is lifted or the end of his term, which ever comes first.

Something of note, Senator Still, now half way through his first term in office, has been considered to be a valuable member of the Senate since taking office. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce, for example, has named him the “Legislator of the Year,” for 2023.

Having read the indictment, I am willing to bet that Senator Still will not be suspended from office in this scenario. In the handful of conversations I have had with Republican members of the legislature about his situation, it is universal that they believe he is being singled out for political purposes. And Fani Willis has done nothing so far to sage those concerns.

But this is Georgia and weirder things have happened, so stay tuned.

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