Lawyer for state Sen. Balfour asks judge to toss out case
by Kate Brumback, Associated Press
December 06, 2013 11:55 PM | 810 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ATLANTA — The state’s prosecution of Georgia state Sen. Don Balfour, who’s accused of illegally claiming state pay, is unconstitutional because it violates the concept of separation of powers, a lawyer for the suspended lawmaker argued Friday.

Lawyer William Hill also said the state’s indictment of his client violates the exclusive authority of the Senate to discipline its members for misdeeds associated with their official duties.

“Georgia has always recognized the immutable concept of separation of powers,” Hill said.

Greg Lohmeier, a lawyer for the state, countered that separation of powers doesn’t exclude the attorney general’s office from following through on its duty to prosecute wrongdoing and that the provision in the state constitution that allows the Senate to punish its members doesn’t exclude them from prosecution.

“What he’s really saying is that General Assembly members are above the law and that they should be treated differently,” Lohmeier said.

A grand jury indicted Balfour in September on felony charges of making a false certificate, theft by taking and a count of false statement and writing. He is accused of illegally claiming legislative expense pay and double-billing the state and his private employer for some expenses.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Henry Newkirk heard arguments from both sides Friday and said he rule later on the attempt by Balfour’s lawyers to have the indictment dismissed. The trial in the case is set to begin Dec. 16.

Balfour has been under legal scrutiny for payments that he received for his work in the General Assembly. Hill said his client believes he’s being unfairly targeted for inadvertent mistakes and looks forward to defending himself in court.

Balfour previously agreed to pay a $5,000 fine issued by the Senate Ethics Committee for accepting pay for in-state work and travel on days when he was elsewhere. Lawmakers can only claim that pay if they are conducting official business inside Georgia. They can collect expenses while traveling outside the state if they are part of an approved delegation.

Gov. Nathan Deal last month signed an order suspending Balfour. The Senate Republican leadership reacted swiftly, removing him from his committee leadership positions and suspending him from the Senate Republican Caucus.

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