Trump Georgia election case: Fulton County DA urges Court of Appeals to reject appeal

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 01: Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis looks on during a hearing in the case of the State of Georgia v. Donald John Trump at the Fulton County Courthouse on March 1, 2024, in Atlanta, Georgia. The hearing is to determine

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis wants the Court of Appeals to affirm her involvement in the 2020 election interference case concerning former President Donald Trump and his co-defendants.

Co-defendant and former White House staffer Michael Roman filed the initial disqualification motion against Willis and her team in January, citing her romantic relationship with former special prosecutor Nathan Wade. Additionally, he accused Willis of benefiting financially from hiring Wade to prosecute the former president and others for election interference. Trump and other defendants subsequently filed similar motions.

After two months of drama, multiple hearings and days of testimony, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee ruled in March that either Willis or Wade would need to step aside. Wade resigned shortly thereafter.

Timeline: Fulton County DA Fani Willis, Nathan Wade controversy

Following this, the defense team requested permission from McAfee to appeal his ruling, which was granted. They are now petitioning the Court of Appeals to review McAfee's decision.

"At issue here is whether DA Willis and her entire office should have been disqualified from prosecuting this case based upon (1) DA Willis’s inflammatory out-of-court statements regarding Defendants and their counsel and other misconduct ("forensic misconduct") in response to this Motion, and/or (2) her actual or apparent conflict of interest in the case. While the trial court factually found DA Willis’s out-of-court statements were improper and Defendants proved an apparent conflict of interest, the trial court erred as a matter of law by not requiring dismissal and DA Willis’ disqualification. This legal error requires the Court’s immediate review."

The filing asserts that even prior to Roman's motion to disqualify Willis, she had been involved in a pattern of conduct aimed at prejudicing the defendants. It alleges that Willis repeatedly made widely publicized, improper extrajudicial statements during the investigation, violating her heightened ethical obligations as a prosecutor. After the motion was filed, Willis continued to do so, including a widely-publicized speech at a historic Black church in Atlanta on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend during which she defended her decision to hire Wade and claimed that the criticism and accusations were racially motivated. 

In response, Willis contends that there are no grounds for the Court of Appeals to review Judge McAfee's decision.

"The trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing on the motion, spanning several days of testimony and evidence. Ultimately, the trial court found the evidence insufficient to establish any actual conflict of interest and declined to dismiss the indictment. The trial court also permitted the prosecution to proceed under the direction of the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office upon the withdrawal of Special Assistant District Attorney Nathan Wade," according to the motion.

The motion further argues that mere dissatisfaction with the decision does not warrant review.

"With no error by the trial court, the current application merely reflects the applicants’ dissatisfaction with the trial court’s proper application of well-established law to the facts. Because the applicants have failed to carry their burden of persuasion, this Court should decline interlocutory review."

The motion proceeds to analyze Judge McAfee's decision and includes copies of Wade's resignation and Willis' response to Wade.

The Court of Appeals has 45 days (mid-May) to make a decision. If it does decide to hear the case, it could take months for them to reach a decision. In the meantime, Judge McAfee plans to keep the case moving forward. 


Additionally, Trump and his allies have jointly filed a legal request in Fulton County for the court to reconsider the April 4 order rejecting their appeal to dismiss the Fulton County election interference case on the grounds of free speech.