Opinion Columns & Blogs

House speaker’s self-defense makes his court shenanigans look even more disgusting

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston leaves the well to a standing ovation after he spoke during Morning Orders to address accusations that he has abused his authority.
Georgia House Speaker David Ralston leaves the well to a standing ovation after he spoke during Morning Orders to address accusations that he has abused his authority. AP

What would you do if your 14-year-old daughter told you she had been raped? To what lengths would you go to see that justice was served? What if, five years later, your daughter still had no justice? What if your daughter had to be in weekly therapy and had to still hold on to the memories of that violation because her alleged assailant had never gone to trial?

One family in north Georgia is living this life watching their daughter still deal with the rape she says happened. The man she says raped her hired House Speaker David Ralston as his lawyer. Ralston has repeatedly filed continuances in the case, dragging it out for more than five years

Ralston’s habit of dragging out continuances looks like a business model. The state legislature changed a 1905 law in 2006. The change let lawmakers get continuances any time they had legislative business, not just while they were in session. Ralston sat on the conference committee that slipped in the change. Back in 2013, WSB TV reported that from 2006 to 2012, “Ralston had used (that law) 129 times in 87 cases.”

At that time, Ralston was continually delaying the case of Walter Layson. Mr. Layson was charged with vehicular homicide for a car crash that resulted in the deaths of a man and his daughter. The wife and son survived the crash and wanted justice. Almost a decade after the 2006 change in the law, they were still waiting for justice.

Ralston delays cases constantly. He even had one client file a complaint with the State Bar because Ralston’s own client wanted the case resolved and he claimed Ralston kept dragging it out.

On Monday, Ralston took the well of the state House of Representatives to defend himself. He claimed that he was the real victim. Pay no attention to the girl who says she was raped, the woman who claims she was head-butted and beaten by her boyfriend or any of the other victims. Ralston claims he was the victim and some mean talk radio show host was saying mean things about him.

As an aside, I and everyone else assumes Ralston was talking about me, but he says the radio show host called him a “scumbag,” which I have not done, so perhaps I am not alone in my quest to shine the spotlight on this outrage.

Ralston’s solution is not to resign. Instead, he says he will form a bipartisan commission. They will tell him what to do. Ralston will also consider changing back the law that he helped change in 2006. This, of course, is sheer abdication of responsibility. Ralston says he did nothing wrong, broke no law, and always behaved ethically, but he is happy to change the law he says he did not break and also finally take to court the cases he could have taken years ago.

The response from the State House of Representatives is nothing short of horrific. A dozen state legislators, led by Representative David Clark, have signed on to a resolution to remove the Speaker. But their colleagues? They are in hiding. Newly elected State Representative Dale Washburn is siding with Ralston against the rape vicim. Same with James Beverly, Robert Dickey, Danny Mathis, Susan Holmes, Noel Williams, Shaw Blackmon, and the rest. They stand with the Speaker, not the victims, and they will defer their sense of right and wrong to a commission. Shame on all of them.

Erick Erickson is host of Atlanta’s Evening News on WSB Radio