Judge allows Trump, co-defendants to appeal his order keeping DA on 2020 election case

A gold set of the scales of justice

by Stanley Dunlap, Georgia Recorder [This article first appeared in the Georgia Recorder, republished with permission]

March 20, 2024

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee ruled Wednesday that former president Donald Trump and his co-defendants can request that an appeals court review their motion to disqualify District Attorney Fani Willis.

Trump’s lead counsel Steve Sadow described McAfee’s latest ruling as a “highly significant” development that gives the defendants the ability to ask that the Georgia Court of Appeals hold a pretrial review of McAfee’s Friday decision. That ultimately allowed Willis to remain on the case following the resignation of special prosecutor Nathan Wade.


McAfee wrote that he agreed with the defendants’ arguing that it is imperative for them to appeal to a higher court his decision to give Willis the option of removing herself and the Fulton County DA’s office or have Wade step down from a case that alleges that Trump and multiple co-defendants illegally attempted to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election.

Several defense attorneys following the case but not involved contend that the prosecution would be at risk of a retrial if McAfee did not grant their request for an immediate review by the appellate court. The motion to dismiss argues that Willis committed prosecutorial misconduct by dating Wade, who she hired in November 2021 to lead the historic racketeering probe.

“The Court intends to continue addressing the many other unrelated pending pretrial motions, regardless of whether the petition is granted within 45 days of filing, and even if any subsequent appeal is expedited by the appellate court,” McAfee wrote in Wednesday’s certificate of immediate review.

McAfee ruled Friday that the defendants in the closely watched case failed to show that Willis’s romantic involvement with Wade amounted to a conflict of interest. But McAfee was unsparing in his criticism of what he called a “tremendous lapse in judgment,” and he said an “odor of mendacity remains.”

Sadow called out on social media the legal and political experts Wednesday who had expressed doubts that McAfee would agree to the defense’s request to have the appeals court decide if Willis should be disqualified.

Judge McAfee has granted a certificate of immediate review permitting us to apply to the GA Court of Appeals for a pretrial appeal of his order denying disqualification of DA Willis. pic.twitter.com/2Oip7wQCB5

— Steve Sadow (@stevesadow) March 20, 2024

A more than two-month delay in the long-running case started in early January when a lawyer for co-defendant and former Trump campaign official, Michael Roman, argued in a motion that Wade and Willis’s undisclosed relationship allowed them to improperly financially benefit by prosecuting the former president and his Republican allies.

Willis and Wade testified at a hearing on Feb. 15 that they became romantically involved in early 2022, several months after Wade was appointed as special prosecutor, and that they ended their relationship in the summer of 2023.

Wade was paid about $700,000 as special prosecutor. Willis testified that she repaid Wade several thousand dollars in cash that he spent on vacations and other expenses while they were a couple.

Trump, his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, Roman and 16 others accused of racketeering in a scheme to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election were booked into the Fulton County jail last August after a grand jury indicted them in the election case.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: info@georgiarecorder.com. Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.