Citizen activist says House Speaker David Ralston abused legislative leave law

A self-described citizen activist is turning up the heat on Georgia House Speaker David Ralston who is also a lawyer.

It is over Ralston’s use of a Georgia law that allows a 'legislator lawyer' to temporarily delay court cases.

Georgia law allows a 'legislator lawyer' to temporarily delay court cases they are involved in if they have a conflict with their legislative duties.

One man says he has the proof that Ralston has abused that law and delayed justice.

With the detailed precision of a prosecutor, and flanked by an avowed House Speaker David Ralston critic, self-described citizen activist Derek Somerville laid out his case against Speaker Ralston’s use of legislative leave in court.

“I don't see how anybody can faithfully hold the office of Speaker of House of Representative with this conduct in the public sector,” SAYS Somerville.

Somerville, a Georgia businessman and ex FBI travelled hundreds of miles to eight counties to examine hundreds of cases involving David Ralston as an attorney.

The issue: Georgia law allows legislators who are lawyers to ask a judge to put off a court case temporarily if they are tied up with their legislative duties.

Somerville, says after reading an AJC article detailing how Ralston's liberal use of legislative leave caused criminal and civil cases to drag on for years, he did his own research. Somerville claims since 2000, he found 279 cases where Ralston used more than 1000 requests for legislative leave. Most of those, since Ralston became speaker.

I asked Speaker Ralston if he abused the law. His answer: “No. Absolutely not.”

Speaker Ralston said the criticism comes from two non-attorneys who didn't have anything critical to say about his performance as Speaker of the House, only his law practice.

“I don't know this individual. He is not an attorney. And, admittedly does not understand the legal system or the criminal justice system, says Ralston. 

Somerville says he found over a dozen motions from attorneys complaining about Ralston delaying court cases through legislative continuances.

“I'm not aware of any motion that has been filed complaining of my use of that,” says Ralston.

Somerville says no one paid him or asked him to do his work. He insists it is about his own moral outrage, and is not a political attack. Even though harsh critic of Speaker Ralston, Representative David Clark, joined him in the news conference.

“I think the Speaker should do the right thing. He is 10 years in the role. He should resign.”

Not going to happen, says Ralston. He says he appointed a bi-partisan commission to study the legislative leave law.

That commission led to a new bill that allows victims or other attorneys to object to any request for a legislative delay.

And, it allows judges to overrule a legislator's request if the judge feels the law is being abused.

Governor Kemp has yet to sign the new bill into law.