Georgia House speaker accused of using office to delay court for clients

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An influential Georgia politician is accused of utilizing the facility of his workplace to delay court docket instances for felony defendants he has represented as an lawyer.

Home Speaker David Ralston, a Republican, requested judges to delay court docket instances 57 instances over a two-year interval, The Atlanta Journal-Structure and WSB-TV concluded in a joint investigation.

Among the costs in opposition to Ralston’s shoppers included baby molestation, baby cruelty and assault, The newspaper reported. The proceedings for one shopper charged with driving below the affect have been postponed for over a decade, whereas one other particular person, accused of engaging a toddler for indecent functions, has prevented trial since 2009.

In keeping with Georgia regulation, judges should reschedule instances that intervene with the legislative obligations of attorneys who’re additionally politicians.

On Wednesday, Ralston launched a written assertion claiming that his actions had been fully authorized.

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“Legislative go away is a long-established provision of Georgia regulation which acknowledges the distinctive wants of a citizen-legislature and protects the independence of the legislative department of state authorities,” the assertion stated. “Like different members of the Normal Meeting, I make the most of this provision outdoors of the legislative session, when vital, to take care of my legislative duties as each a state consultant and speaker of the Home.”

Ralston repeatedly despatched letters to the court docket to delay his instances, the report discovered. It decided that shoppers’ possibilities of avoiding stricter punishments have elevated — and profited Ralston’s regulation agency — because the delays have gone on.

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“Please be suggested that I’m hereby requesting a continuance of those three instances from the felony calendar name,” Ralston wrote in one of many letters. “I hereby certify to the court docket that my legislative duties and obligations would require that I be elsewhere on that date.”

As Home speaker, Ralston is ready to declare conflicts all year long. In 21 instances checked by The Journal-Structure he filed 57 requests for continuances. Of the times Ralston stated he was unavailable, greater than 75 % fell outdoors legislative periods.

Fox Information’ Michael Sinkewicz and The Related Press contributed to this report.

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