Trump’s appeal to disqualify Fani Willis from GA case gets October hearing date

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The Georgia Court of Appeals has tentatively scheduled a hearing date of Oct. 4 for the case brought by former President Donald Trump and his co-defendants to have embattled District Attorney Fani Willis disqualified from the case. 

“President Trump’s interlocutory appeal was docketed today in the Georgia Court of Appeals, and oral argument is tentatively scheduled for October 4, 2024,” Steve Sadow, lawyer for President Trump said in a statement. 

“We look forward to presenting arguments before Judges Brown, Markel, and Land on why this case should be dismissed and Fulton County DA Willis should be disqualified for the trial court’s acknowledged ‘odor of mendacity’ misconduct in violation of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct.”

Judge P.J. Miller has recused herself, and Judge Brown is her replacement.


Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis arrives to speak after winning the Democratic primary on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Buckhead, Ga.  (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

The date is tentative, subject to motions from the parties agreeing on the date. Oct. 4 is roughly a month out from the presidential election, all but nullifying Willis’ aim to have the sweeping racketeering case against the former president and presumptive 2024 GOP nominee go to trial before the election. 

Judge Scott McAfee’s order in March said that special prosecutor Nathan Wade had to be removed in order to keep Willis from disqualification in the Trump election interference case in Georgia. 

Trump and several co-defendants alleged Willis and Wade were romantically involved prior to his hiring and that she financially benefited from the relationship. Both Willis and Wade denied those allegations.

Fani Willis and Donald Trump

Fani Willis and Donald Trump (Getty Images)

McAfee allowed the defense to appeal his ruling, and the appeals court announced last week that they will hear the defense’s case to still have Willis disqualified. The appeals court agreed to hear the case last month. 

McAfee’s ruling in March said that the defendants “failed to meet their burden of proving that the District Attorney acquired an actual conflict of interest in this case through her personal relationship and recurring travels with her lead prosecutor.”


Fani Willis

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis looks on during a hearing in the case of the State of Georgia v. Donald John Trump at the Fulton County Courthouse on March 1, 2024, in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Alex Slitz-Pool/Getty Images)

“However, the established record now highlights a significant appearance of impropriety that infects the current structure of the prosecution team — an appearance that must be removed through the State’s selection of one of two options,” he wrote, adding that Willis and her whole office can choose to step aside, or Wade can withdraw from the case.

Wade subsequently resigned from his post as special prosecutor.

Both Wade and Willis denied they were in a romantic relationship prior to his hiring and that the couple would split the costs of their shared travels; Willis said she reimbursed Wade for her share of the trips in cash.

In his March order, McAfee said while Willis’ “reimbursement practice” was “unusual and the lack of any documentary corroboration understandably concerning,” he ultimately decided that the defendants did not present “sufficient evidence” that expenses weren’t “roughly divided evenly.” 

He also said that “the evidence demonstrated that the financial gain flowing from her relationship with Wade was not a motivating factor on the part of the District Attorney to indict and prosecute this case.”


Nathan Wade

Former Special prosecutor Nathan Wade arrives before Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks after winning the Democratic primary on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Buckhead, Ga.  (AP)

In February, Judge McAfee held a two-day evidentiary hearing where the defense, led by attorney Ashley Merchant, set out to expose a money trail that would mean Willis has a conflict of interest in the case against Trump and should be disqualified.

“[T]he Court finds that the record made at the evidentiary hearing established that the District Attorney’s prosecution is encumbered by an appearance of impropriety,” McAfee wrote in his order.

“As the case moves forward, reasonable members of the public could easily be left to wonder whether the financial exchanges have continued resulting in some form of benefit to the District Attorney, or even whether the romantic relationship has resumed.”

“Put differently, an outsider could reasonably think that the District Attorney is not exercising her independent professional judgment totally free of any compromising influences. As long as Wade remains on the case, this unnecessary perception will persist,” he said.


Both Willis and Wade insisted that their relationship started in 2022, after Wade was hired. But they contradicted testimony from Robin Yeartie, a former “good friend” of Willis and past employee at the DA’s office. 

Yeartie said she had “no doubt” that Willis and Wade’s relationship started in 2019, after the two met at a conference. 

When the defense in March submitted a joint motion for a Certificate of Immediate Review, McAfee said that his Order on the Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss and Disqualify the Fulton County District Attorney issued March 15 “is of such importance to the case that immediate review should be had” and allowed the defendants to ask the Georgia appeals court for an opportunity to appeal, which the court granted last month. 

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