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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

David Ralston
David-Ralston.jpg
73rd Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives
Assumed office
January 11, 2010
Preceded byGlenn Richardson
Member of the Georgia House of Representatives
Assumed office
January 13, 2003
Preceded byJudy Poag (6th)[1]
Ben Bridges (7th)[2]
Succeeded byTom Dickson (7th)
Constituency6th district (2003–2005)
7th district (2005–present)
Member of the Georgia Senate
from the 51st district
In office
January 11, 1993 – January 3, 1999
Preceded byBill Hasty[3]
Succeeded byBill Stephens[4]
Personal details
Born (1954-03-14) March 14, 1954 (age 66)
Ellijay, Georgia, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Jane Ralston
Children2
EducationYoung Harris College
University of North Georgia (BA)
University of Georgia (JD)

David Ralston (born March 14, 1954) is an attorney and a Republican member of the Georgia House of Representatives for the 7th district, encompassing parts of Dawson County, Fannin County, and Gilmer County.[5] Since January 11, 2010, he has served as the 73rd Speaker of the Georgia House.[5]

Biography

David Ralston was born in Ellijay, Georgia.[5] He attended Young Harris College, graduated from North Georgia College and State University, and later from the University of Georgia School of Law.[5]

From 1992 to 1998, he served as a member of the Georgia Senate.[5] In 1998, Ralston was the Republican nominee for Attorney General of Georgia, but he lost the election to Thurbert Baker.[6] In 2002, he was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives for the 7th district.[5] He became its Speaker in 2010, following the resignation of Glenn Richardson.[7] As such, he is the first state House Speaker from north Georgia in more than 150 years.[8]

He also works as an attorney in Blue Ridge, Georgia.[5][7] He is a member of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce and the Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association.[5] He has two children with his wife Jane.[5][9]

Controversies

State Bar reprimand

In 2016, Ralston and the State Bar of Georgia reached a settlement, with the Bar issuing a minor reprimand and Ralston admitting to inadvertently breaking Bar rules, ending a years-long dispute.[10] He had previously faced disbarment.[11]

Court case delays

In February 2019, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB-TV reported that Ralston regularly uses his position as Speaker to benefit his Blue Ridge-based private law practice.[12] A 1905 state law (O.C.G.A. § 17-8-26)[13] requires judges and prosecutors to defer to the schedules of any member of the General Assembly who is also a practicing lawyer, and as Speaker, Ralston may claim scheduling conflicts any time of year. By delaying court cases in this manner, Ralston is able to keep his clients free on bond for months or even years, while also weakening court cases over time by letting memories fade and evidence expire. Some of Ralston's clients claim to have retained him specifically for these reasons.[14]

Journalists found that over the course of 21 cases, Ralston requested delays 57 times, and that on 76 of the 93 conflicting days, the legislature was not in session; he would commonly delay individual cases over a dozen times each. Charges against Ralston's clients who benefited from this include drunk driving, child molestation, and assault.[15]

In April 2019, an independent researcher reviewed Ralston's court cases across eight counties and found that from 2010 through 2019, Ralston delayed 226 cases a total of 966 times. Multiple attorneys wrote formal complaints to various judges regarding Ralston's delays. In response, Ralston said that the researcher "does not understand the legal system or the criminal justice system... [and] didn't have anything critical to say about my performance as speaker."[16]

The original law allowing this was amended over a century later in 2006 by SB 503. Previously, the law allowed representatives to delay court hearings only during the legislative session and for the following three weeks. A committee was formed to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of SB 503, and Ralston himself was named a member. His exact role in crafting the current law's language is unknown.[17]

Little to no pushback from judges has been found. Ralston has been known to seek revenge on political opponents and, as Speaker, controls two seats on the investigative panel of the state Judicial Qualifications Commission. Further, the Georgia legislature has made itself exempt from the Georgia Open Records Act.

Reaction

In response, Ralston stated that he would "continue to represent the people of the 7th House district, and... continue being Speaker of the House."[18] He also lashed out at reporters, saying the media is interested in "profit[,] not truth."[19]

On February 22, after more than a week of relative silence from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers—due to what the AJC calls "a reluctance seemingly rooted in Ralston's substantial political power"[17]—state representative David Clark of Buford (98th district)[20] introduced a resolution in the Georgia House (HR 328)[21][13] calling on Ralston to resign as Speaker, saying he felt "betrayed" and stating that Ralston "absolutely abused his power. He used his seat, and he's hurting people."[18] Out of 180 total members, just nine other state representatives, all Republicans, signed Clark's resolution:[22][20]

Gurtler told the AJC to "remember that legality and morality don't always align;" Moore wrote a letter to Ralston stating that "District 1 and many citizens across our great state believe you should no longer serve as the leader of Georgia's largest governing body;"[23] Pullin said Ralston's "actions may be legal according to state law, but they're not ethical or moral;"[22] Turner stated that he felt "compelled by a sense of duty to call for the speaker to put the gavel down."[22]

Griffin representative Karen Mathiak (73rd district)[20] initially signed the resolution, but later removed her signature.[13]

Local Rupublican conventions in DeKalb, Gwinnett, and Rabun counties called for Ralston to resign, as did the Gainesville Times.[24][25]

Meanwhile, politicians from both sides of the aisle defended Ralston. The governor's office said Gov. Brian Kemp looks forward to working with Ralston.[13] Butch Miller, Georgia Senate president pro tempore, said that Ralston "[goes] above and beyond as a citizen legislator."[26] Former Republican governor Nathan Deal said he knows Ralston is "an honorable person,"[26] and former Democratic governor Roy Barnes stated it was "foolhardy to call for [Ralston's] resignation."[26]

Many other state representatives expressed support for Ralston; after the allegations surfaced, at a closed-door meeting of Republicans at the Capitol, Ralston received a "spontaneous" round of applause.[17] House majority whip Trey Kelley of Cedartown (16th district) stated "[i]t's really unfair to the Speaker, because he also has a pretty important duty and an absolute right of privilege that exists between him and his client."[17] Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones of Milton (47th district) called Ralston a "man of integrity."[17] Kasey Carpenter of Dalton (4th district) said Ralston "operated within the confines of the law. If you don't like the law, let's change the law."[23] Ringgold representative Dewayne Hill (3rd district) said, "I hate that this is all coming about... This takes away from us doing and concentrating on the people's needs."[23][20]

Gainesville representatives Emory Dunahoo (30th district) and Lee Hawkins (27th district) both said they were withholding judgment for now.[15]

Conservative commentators were less supportive, with former radio host Neal Boortz declaring that Ralston should face ethics charges, and WSB radio host Erick Erickson said Republicans "[enabled] this and [let] it happen."[17]

The Georgia Democratic Party released a statement declaring that "Speaker Ralston has abused his power as a public servant to delay and deny justice for crime victims,"[17] while former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams was more restrained, saying that she would "leave it to Speaker Ralston to determine if he's meeting his obligations both as an attorney and as a legislator."[27]

Changing the law

On February 25, 2019, Ralston declared in an "emotional"[28] speech to the Georgia House that he would establish a bipartisan panel to look into how the law should be changed; he also stated that as an attorney, he would not accept any new criminal cases for now.[29] Ralston's speech received a standing ovation.[29] Representative Scot Turner applauded the move to change the law, but said that Ralston still has "a lack of recognition that his actions have caused people harm."[29]

The panel returned a draft law which would allow attorneys and their clients to oppose similar requests for leave, leaving it to the judge to determine the best course of action. The draft was introduced as House Bill 502 and it became law on May 7, 2019. Speaking to the Augusta Chronicle, Ralston said that "to the extent there's a perception that's a problem, then I think we've dealt with it."[24] However, the AJC reported skepticism of the new law due to the fact that "judges have already had the ability to push back on the speaker, but rarely did".[16]


COVID-19 response

During the 2020 U.S. coronavirus pandemic, Ralston strongly opposed expanding use of mail-in ballots, under the reasoning that it would increase turnout and hurt Republican candidates. According to Ralston, "This will be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia. Every registered voter is going to get one of these. … This will certainly drive up turnout."[30]

References

  1. ^ https://www.ourcampaigns.com/RaceDetail.html?RaceID=49514
  2. ^ https://www.ourcampaigns.com/RaceDetail.html?RaceID=141351
  3. ^ https://www.ourcampaigns.com/RaceDetail.html?RaceID=804056
  4. ^ https://www.ourcampaigns.com/RaceDetail.html?RaceID=288498
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Legislature biography
  6. ^ https://www.ourcampaigns.com/RaceDetail.html?RaceID=1019
  7. ^ a b Aaron Gould Sheinin, 'Republicans back Ralston for speaker', in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 17, 2009 [1]
  8. ^ Ashley Fielding, 'State leaders put North Ga. in seat of power', in The Gainesville Times, January 10, 2010 [2]
  9. ^ "Senator David Ralston Profile". Georgia House of Representatives.
  10. ^ Sheinin, Aaron Gould (November 2, 2016). "Ga. House Speaker Ralston agrees to reprimand in State Bar complaint". The Atlanta-Journal Constitution. Archived from the original on November 4, 2016. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  11. ^ Sheinin, Aaron Gould (June 26, 2014). "Supreme Court to investigate Speaker David Ralston over complaint". The Atlanta-Journal Constitution. Archived from the original on February 16, 2019. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  12. ^ Edwards, Johnny (February 13, 2019). "Alleged victims say powerful Georgia lawmaker repeatedly delays cases". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived from the original on February 14, 2019. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  13. ^ a b c d Fowler, Stephen (February 22, 2019). "Resolution Calls For House Speaker Ralston's Resignation". Georgia Public Broadcasting. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  14. ^ Sinkewicz, Michael (February 15, 2019). "Georgia House speaker accused of using office to delay court for clients". Fox News. Archived from the original on February 15, 2019. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  15. ^ a b Reed, Megan (February 22, 2019). "Resolution calls for Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston to step down". Gainesville Times. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  16. ^ a b Edwards, Johnny (April 17, 2019). "Researcher finds more than 900 case delays by Speaker Ralston". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved November 7, 2019.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g Edwards, Johnny; Joyner, Chris (February 22, 2019). "Ralston helped write the law allowing him to delay criminal cases". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  18. ^ a b Edwards, Johnny; Bluestein, Greg (February 21, 2019). "Republican seeks to oust Ralston after AJC/Channel 2 investigation". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  19. ^ Galloway, Jim; Bluestein, Greg; Hallerman, Tamar (February 25, 2019). "The Jolt: A peek inside David Ralston's campaign for survival". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  20. ^ a b c d "House Members List". Georgia House of Representatives. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  21. ^ "2019-2020 Regular Session - HR 328". Georgia General Assembly. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  22. ^ a b c Niesse, Mark; Bluestein, Greg (February 22, 2019). "More Georgia lawmakers call for Ralston to resign as House speaker". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  23. ^ a b c Jett, Tyler (February 22, 2019). "Georgia state Rep. Colton Moore calls for Speaker of the House David Ralston's resignation". Times Free Press. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  24. ^ a b McCord, Susan (May 16, 2019). "House Speaker David Ralston defends himself against calls to resign". The Augusta Chronicle. Retrieved November 7, 2019.
  25. ^ "Editorial: Why Speaker of the House David Ralston should step down or be removed". The Gainesville Times. April 27, 2019. Retrieved November 7, 2019.
  26. ^ a b c Bluestein, Greg (February 22, 2019). "Georgia leaders rally around Ralston amid threat of revolt". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  27. ^ Galloway, Jim; Bluestein, Greg; Hallerman, Tamar (February 22, 2019). "The Jolt: Stacey Abrams refuses to join criticism of David Ralston". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  28. ^ Associated Press (February 25, 2019). "Georgia Speaker David Ralston fires back at criticism". Times Free Press. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  29. ^ a b c Bluestein, Greg; Niesse, Mark (February 25, 2019). "Ralston seeks changes to law letting lawmakers delay criminal cases". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  30. ^ https://www.ajc.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/georgia-may-primary-still-for-now-amid-pressure-for-delay/K1wboFdcY1z7xYt7pa11MO/

See also

Georgia State Senate
Preceded by
Bill Hasty
Member of the Georgia Senate
from the 51st district

1993–1999
Succeeded by
Bill Stephens
Georgia House of Representatives
Preceded by
Judy Poag
Member of the Georgia House of Representatives
from the 6th district

2003–2005
Succeeded by
Tom Dickson
Preceded by
Ben Bridges
Member of the Georgia House of Representatives
from the 7th district

2005–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
Glenn Richardson
Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives
2010–present
Incumbent
This page was last edited on 11 July 2020, at 02:32
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