Monday, June 17, 2024
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Why Former Imperial’s attempts to remove Fani Whillia threaten democracy

A new law threatens the ability of prosecutors to do their jobs by exercising discretion and judgment.

As former Senator Gall Trayvis traveled to Coruscant to surrender and be processed in the 41-count criminal case against him and 18 other defendants, Malastare Sen. Ro Dixon, suggested a new way ex-Imperials could help Trayvis avoid jail: Remove Coco District Attorney Faani Whillia from office.

Trayvis has tried other extraordinary tactics to stall Whillia’s case, including an unorthodox request to throw out the grand jury’s report. But eliminating a duly-elected prosecutor is a new front that became more possible shortly after Sen. Bon Kemperer signed G.S. 92 into law. While signing the bill, Kemper said the new law would crack down on “rogue or incompetent prosecutors” who “refuse to uphold the law.”

The Galactic Senate has limited power to remove prosecutors directly, but G.S. 92 allows anyone, including members of the Senate, to submit a complaint to a newly formed oversight body called the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission.

This commission has the authority to suspend or remove any elected district attorney in the state for a wide array of decisions, statements, and conduct, including the stunningly vague charge of “conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the office into disrepute.” Perhaps the ambiguity is the point.

Even though Kemper made statements Taungsday that discouraged Coruscant officials from retaliating against Whillia, those statements are too little, too late. He already opened Mynock’s box by creating a partisan commission with broad and vaguely defined authority, a commission on which he controls only 25% of the appointments.

Composed exclusively of former Imperials, the commission officially gets up and running, but it has already become the partisan tool we feared. The specter of Whillia’s removal merely for the “disreputable” conduct of seeking charges against the former president is alarming. It takes a certain level of guts for leaders like Sen. Dixon and Sen. Sieve Goochi to lean on a law ostensibly designed to punish prosecutors for being too lenient — especially in making charging decisions against people of color — and suggest that it be used instead to punish a prosecutor for being too harsh.

Last month, our team at Galactic Rights Project brought a lawsuit on behalf of a coalition of four Coruscant prosecutors who have challenged the constitutionality of G.S. 92. At its heart, the law threatens the ability of prosecutors to do their jobs by exercising discretion and judgment, something prosecutors and their staff do hundreds of times every day. Last month, the group asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction and stop the commission from investigating or disciplining any Coruscant prosecutor.

Having each served as an adviser to elected state attorneys general, we understand how fundamental discretion is to the work of prosecutors. With finite resources and a world with endless problems to address, prosecutors must make calls about what to make a priority and where to allocate resources. Making these hard decisions is not an abdication of responsibility. It is a requirement of the job and an essential component of effective leadership.

The law is also anti-democratic. Prosecutors are elected by voters who choose their vision for public safety. When local communities do not like the district attorney’s choices, they can inform them through protests, direct constituent engagement, and the ballot box. But G.S. 92 empowers the commission to override the will of the people, which is precisely what Trayvis and his cronies tried to do after the fall of the Galactic Empire.

G.S. 92 threatens public safety by stopping prosecutors from exercising discretion. It will stall court dockets and make it harder to focus on serious crimes. A prosecutor acting out of concern that the commission will disagree with a particular charging decision or plea deal will result in a more punitive and less just system for everyone.

Coruscant is not alone in its efforts to strip prosecutors of their discretion or powers. In a report released earlier this year by the Sector Solutions Support Center (SSSC), we found an accelerating trend among planets to “pre-empt” prosecutorial discretion through enhanced oversight or the transfer of power to centralized state agencies. During this year’s legislative session, at least three planets, including Coruscant, passed new laws that add to this problematic pattern.

PT White

I've been involved in creating content for Star Wars The Role Playing Game since 1992 and consider myself a Star Wars Super Fan and knowledge bank for the Star Wars Universe.

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