State Politics

Georgia Lawmakers Upset After State Bar Dismisses Complaints Against Attorneys

The State Bar of Georgia has dismissed complaints filed by Georgia lawmakers against former Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson and Waycross Judicial Circuit DA George Barnhill.

Democratic state representatives filed a handful of complaints against attorneys involved in the Ahmaud Arbery death investigation. A complaint was also filed against Kevin Gough, who represented defendant William “Roddie” Bryan.

State Reps. Sandra Scott (D-Rex), Kim Schofield (D-Atlanta), Rhonda Burnough (D- Riverdale) and Viola Davis (D-Stone Mountain) contacted the state bar to file grievances against the lawyers in January 2022.

In their formal complaints, these legislators requested:

  • the disbarment of former Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson and Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George E. Barnhill,
  • the bar to censure defense attorney Kevin Gough.
  • a review of other cases overseen by Johnson and Barnhill for acts of discrimination and conflict of interest.

NOTE: A full review of cases handled by Jackie Johnson was published during her re-election campaign in 2020.

These legislators believe “the trial of Arbery’s death”:

  • demonstrated abuse of the judicial process
  • disenfranchised Arbery’s civil and constitutional rights
  • exposed racial disparities in the law relating to hate crimes and African Americans receiving justice under the law

Monday, the lawmakers said the State Bar of Georgia recently notified them of the fact that the complaints were dismissed. The lawmakers subsequently released the following statements:

State Rep. Sandra Scott:

“I am troubled by the letter that I received from the State Bar of Georgia, which informed us that the State Bar of Georgia could discipline attorneys only if they violate any of the rules set forth in the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct.

“If the attorney has not violated one of these rules, the bar is unable to take action against him or her. Therefore, the State Bar of Georgia ruled our complaints insufficient and dismissed them. There is no way the State Bar of Georgia read our complaint.”

State Rep. Viola Davis:

“Every American, especially Georgians, have a constitutional right for equal protection under the law. However, these attorneys displayed conduct unbecoming of officers of the court and need to be held accountable for first violating the constitutional rights of Ahmaud Arbery.”

“They have displayed acts of racial discrimination, conflicts of interest and violated the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct. Until these attorneys are held accountable to the full extent of the law, the nation will be slow to heal.”

State Rep. Kim Schofield:

“Their actions not only violated the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct in the handling of the Ahmaud Arbery case, but the overwhelming evidence also exposes a fatal flaw in this system of filing for disbarment. Accountability should always be an acceptable standard.”

Rep. Rhonda Bournough:

“We did our research and presented our findings to hold these attorneys involved in the Ahmaud Arbery case accountable, and it was still not enough.

“Those attorneys denied Ahmad Arbery a fair trial because they did not want to investigate those white men. It is time for all Georgians to be protected under the Constitution that was written for all Americans.”

The three complaints are below.

Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of The Georgia Virtue. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta, a commentator on the 'Let Me Tell You Why You're Wrong Podcast,' and she has two blogs of her own: The Perspicacious Conservative and "Hair Blowers to Lawn Mowers." Sign up for her weekly newsletter:


  • Jon Axt March 1, 2022

    Nowhere do I see what particular rules were violated.
    Here in the Philippines we have a Code of Professional Responsibility:
    Rule 1.02 – A lawyer shall not counsel or abet activities aimed at defiance of the law or at lessening confidence in the legal system.
    and certainly telling (counseling?) the cops to not arrest those men, now convicted murderers, lessened confidence in the legal system. Apparently Georgia has no such rule.

  • Rick Shaddock September 12, 2022

    The DA and attorneys did their job. Ahmaud Arbery was caught trespassing on video multiple times, chased after Travis McMichael, who did not shoot at 100 feet, 50 feet, 10 feet, or even 5 feet until Ahmaud attacked and punched him, tried to grab his shot gun barrel, pulled and shot himself in the hand. And still came after Travis requiring him to shoot in self defense. The trial was influenced by the Black Panther Army outside the Court House, and Jesse Jackson glaring at the jury.

  • Legal Eagle October 25, 2022

    The GA Bar dismisses 99.5% of all attorney complaints in a given year. A person has better odds in Vegas than the GA Bar disciplining an Attorney. It’s an organization that should have independent citizen review panels.

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