Judge rejects lawsuit to disqualify Georgia's lieutenant governor for acting as Trump elector

ATLANTA (AP) — A judge rejected a lawsuit Friday that sought to disqualify Georgia Lt. Gov. Burt Jones from holding office because of the Republican’s participation as an elector for Donald Trump in 2020.

Butts County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wilson ruled that the four voters who sued couldn’t use the kind of legal action they filed to attack actions Jones took in 2020 while he was a state senator.

The suit echoed other efforts elsewhere to keep Trump and some of his supporters off ballots and to prosecute people who falsely claimed to be valid Trump electors in states Joe Biden won.

Richard Rose, a civil rights activist who is one of the plaintiffs, said Friday that he had expected Wilson to rule against him and that he anticipates an appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court.

Jones “violated his oath of office, because he lied and said he was a duly qualified elector from state of Georgia, which is not true,” Rose said.

Jones says the suit is an illegitimate effort by Democrats to unseat him.

“Democrat activists in Georgia are trying to use the legal system to overrule the will of the voters, just like liberal activists in places like Colorado and Maine are trying to do to President Trump,” Jones said in a statement. “I’m glad to see the court throw out this ridiculous political attack.”

The lawsuit came as a decision remains in limbo on whether to prosecute Jones on state charges, due to a lack of a special prosecutor willing to take the case.

The plaintiffs asked a judge in December to declare Jones ineligible to hold office in Georgia, alleging that he violated his oath of office as a state senator by signing his name as a Trump elector. Biden was certified as winning Georgia’s 16 electoral votes in 2020’s election.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear Trump’s appeal of a Colorado court ruling keeping him off the 2024 presidential ballot because of his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss that culminated in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The court will be considering for the first time the meaning and reach of a provision of the post−Civil War 14th Amendment barring some people who “engaged in insurrection” from holding public office.

In Georgia, challengers argued the same clause prohibits Jones from holding office and called him “an insurrectionist against the Constitution of the United States of America.”

Jones’ lawyer argued the challenge lacked evidence to prove insurrection, a position the judge agreed with.

Jones was one of 16 Republicans who gathered on Dec. 14, 2020, at Georgia’s Capitol, claiming to be legitimate electors. The meeting is critical to the prosecution of Trump and 18 others who were indicted by a Georgia grand jury in August for efforts to overturn Biden’s narrow win.

Of those in Georgia indicted in August, only three acted as Trump electors, and all were indicted for crimes beyond that.

Michigan and Nevada have also criminally charged Trump electors. In Wisconsin, 10 Republicans settled a civil lawsuit last month and admitted their actions sought to overturn Biden’s victory.

An earlier special Georgia grand jury recommended Jones face felony charges. But Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis was barred from indicting Jones. A judge ruled Willis, an elected Democrat, had a conflict of interest because she hosted a fundraiser for the Democrat who lost to Jones in 2022’s election for lieutenant governor.

The state Prosecuting Attorneys Council is supposed to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate whether Jones’ actions were criminal, but hasn’t yet acted.

Jeff Amy, The Associated Press

Photo: AP

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