“The donation of $150, though small, appears to present a conflict of interest for Judge McAfee” Allegations of Judicial Bias in Trump Case Dismissed as Baseless by Legal Experts

Trump and Fani Willis
Photo Credit: (Ben Gray/Meg Kinnard/AP)

On Wednesday, a fresh allegation of judicial bias involving Donald Trump in a criminal case emerged but was quickly dismissed. A report earlier that day by a Breitbart journalist claimed that Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee exhibited bias against Trump in the criminal case that accuses the former president of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia.

The report by Wendell Husebø highlighted that Judge McAfee had previously donated to Fani Willis, the prosecutor leading the charge in this case. In response to these allegations, Anthony Michael Kreis, a professor of law at Georgia State, took to social media to downplay the significance of the claim.

“The donation of $150, though small, appears to present a conflict of interest for Judge McAfee,” he wrote. “Judges are supposed to be impartial and avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest. The judge donated to Willis in June 2020, while working for Joe Biden’s DOJ.”

Kreis characterized the report as inconsequential, expressing a sentiment that anyone well-versed in Georgia’s legal and political landscape would likely share. He dismissed the allegation as “non-news,” underscoring that it held no substantial merit within the context of Georgia law and politics.

A conservative account responded to the report in the comments.

“So citizens should not donate to politicians [sic] just in case they get appointed to the bench in the future?” the X user asked. “Is that the new rule?”

Further diminishing the weight of the claim, Anna Bower from Lawfare provided additional context that challenged the premise of judicial bias. She pointed out that Judge McAfee’s contribution to Fani Willis’s campaign occurred in 2020, before his appointment to the bench, indicating that the donation was made before he assumed a judicial role in any related case.

Bower emphasized that the amount donated was modest and, according to precedents set by Georgia courts, nominal campaign contributions do not constitute a valid ground for a judge’s recusal from a case. She argued that such small-scale donations do not establish a conflict of interest, thus countering the narrative of bias against Trump in this legal matter. This perspective suggests that the allegations of judicial bias were unfounded and did not present a legitimate concern regarding Judge McAfee’s ability to preside impartially over the case.

“And, yes, Judge McAfee used to work under Fani Willis when he was an assistant prosecutor in Fulton County. (This was long before Willis ran for DA.) Again, not a sufficient basis for judicial recusal, as the Georgia Supreme Court has held.”

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