Skandalakis leaving a legacy of honor
Published 6:06 pm Sunday, November 19, 2017
At the end of this year, Coweta Judicial Circuit District Attorney Peter “Pete” John Skandalakis will be leaving the office he has held for 25 years to become the executive director of the Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia.
He graduated from law school at the University of Georgia in 1984, and he has worked as a prosecutor in the Coweta Judicial Circuit ever since.
Before becoming DA 1991, he was an Assistant DA from 1984 to 1987. He became the Chief Assistant under DA William G. Hamrick Jr. in 1987.
The Circuit consists of five counties — Carroll, Coweta, Troup, Heard and Meriwether. The Circuit borders Douglas, Paulding, Haralson, Fulton, Fayette, Spalding, Pike, Upson, Talbot and Harris counties.
The DA’s office employs around 60 people across the Circuit, has five offices with one in each county and prosecutes felonies (and misdemeanors in Heard and Meriwether counties) before six superior court judges.
After knowing him for more than 15 years, I can say without hesitation, he leaves a legacy of honor.
While we have had our disagreements on cases, as defense attorneys and prosecutors naturally do, he has always made decisions and taken positions based on his view of seeking justice and what he believed was “the right thing to do.” When we disagreed, he conducted himself as every male lawyer should — a gentleman.
Additionally, I will always be grateful, like many other lawyers across Georgia, for the opportunity he gave me to be a law student intern at the Carroll County DA’s Office. Many other private lawyers, prosecutors, public defenders across the state were also given this chance to learn or be hired as Assistant DAs. Some are themselves elected DAs now.
His new responsibility, as the executive director of PAC, will be leading the state agency that represents district attorneys and state employees in district attorney offices across Georgia.
Pete recently pointed out to the Newnan Times Herald that one of PAC’s primary duties is to train prosecutors across the state and to provide the daily support and training that they need to carry out their duties.
PAC is also active at the Georgia General Assembly concerning budget matters, legislative agenda and public policy. So, Pete will still be involved in prosecution.
His leadership at PAC will affect the direction of criminal justice into the future at a time when a new governor will be elected next year.
In 2018, the Circuit will have a new DA. The question of who that will be is an interesting one.
The question of how he or she navigates the procedures of appointment and election has been somewhat unclear.
I recently spoke to an expert in elections law who provided me with the following information.
Since Pete just began a new term this year and more than 27 months are left in his term, the following seems to be the next course of events based on similar circumstances over the past ten years:
1. Gov. Nathan Deal will appoint the new DA. However, pursuant to O.C.G.A. 45-5-3, he or she will face the voters in a special election;
2. Since more than one attorney has already expressed a serious interest in seeking the position, there is a high likelihood that there will be a contested race. While there are other statewide elections in May 2018, this special election is very likely to be in November 2018.
If there are more than two candidates, the winner must get more than 50 percent of the vote. If that does not happen, a runoff election will determine who will serve the second half of Pete’s unexpired term.
DA’s serve four-year terms in Georgia. So, the next regular election will be in 2020.
Pete, you have big shoes to fill my friend. But, I expect to see qualified candidates ready to take the reins.
I am sure you will be tuning in from PAC. Our community wishes you the best and God Bless.
Jason W. Swindle Sr. is a Senior Partner and Criminal Defense Attorney at Swindle Law Group in Carrollton.