Fani Willis accusations could impact Georgia lawyers “forever”

The accusations surrounding Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis could impact Atlanta’s community of lawyers forever, one defense attorney said.

“This case is personal,” Noah Pines, an Atlanta-based attorney who has been closely following the case, told newspaper The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday. “This case will, in my opinion, impact the relationship of these lawyers forever. And that’s kind of disheartening.” Newsweek reached out to Pines via inquiry form for further comment.

Amid Willis’ efforts to prosecute former President Donald Trump and 18 co-defendants for their alleged efforts to overturn the results of Georgia’s 2020 election, the district attorney has come under attack over her relationship with one of the special prosecutors she hired for the case.

Last month, defendant Mike Roman, a former Trump campaign official, filed a bombshell court motion seeking to disqualify Willis and her office from the case. It accused Willis of improperly hiring Wade, who had paid for lavish vacations he took with the district attorney using some of the nearly $654,000 in legal fees his law firm was paid for by Fulton County. Roman is also seeking to get the criminal charges against him tossed out. On Thursday, the judge overseeing the case will weigh in on the matter for the first time since the allegations against Willis surfaced.

Ahead of the hearing, Pines described being disheartened by the case because of how increasingly personal the court filings in the case have become, given the small legal community in Atlanta where prosecutors and defense attorneys generally “get along.”

Willis’ office fired back at the accusations earlier this month, acknowledging that the two have had a personal relationship. However, she said they did nothing wrong and added that there was no conflict justifying her removal from the case.

In Willis’ response, which called the initial court order “a ticket to the circus,” her office criticized Roman’s lawyers for subpoenaing Willis, Wade and others on the prosecution team. These actions aimed to draw “more breathless media coverage and intrude even further into the personal lives of the prosecution team in an effort to embarrass and harass the district attorney personally.”

Roman’s attorneys replied by accusing Willis and Wade of fighting their efforts for more money, writing: “This enrichment is a form of self-dealing, which creates a personal interest in this case.”

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis appears before Judge Scott McAfee for a hearing in the 2020 Georgia election-interference case at the Fulton County Courthouse on November 21 in Atlanta, Georgia. The latest accusations against…

Dennis Byron/Getty Images

“In other words, the more work that is done on the case (regardless of what justice calls for) the more they get paid,” attorney Ashleigh Merchant said in a court filing last week. “The more they fight Mr. Roman’s motions, the more they get paid. The more they refuse to dismiss defendants who should not be indicted, the more money they make. And, of course, the more money the special prosecutor makes, the more the district attorney gets to reap the financial benefits.”

During Thursday’s hearing, Judge Scott McAfee will determine if there is a legal conflict that justifies removing Willis’ office from the case. His ruling could also cover other areas of dispute, including the details of Willis and Wade’s relationship.

The Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia said that there are two main reasons why a prosecutor would be disqualified—”forensic misconduct;” or in cases where “the prosecutor has acquired a personal interest or stake in the defendant’s conviction.”