Georgia attorney general candidate vows not to defend state law? But that's the job

Jen Jordan is running for Georgia attorney general as a Democrat. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Jen Jordan is running for Georgia attorney general as a Democrat. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

The following is from this week's Savannah Town Square opinion newsletter. Get the newsletter in your inbox by signing up at profile.savannahnow.com/newsletters/manage/.

Jen Jordan wants to be Georgia’s attorney general. The office holder’s primary duty is to defend the state and its laws against court challenges.

Not some of the laws. Not just the ones the attorney general agrees with. All of the laws.

Jordan recently pledged on the campaign trail to ignore Georgia’s so-called “heartbeat” abortion law. Her legal opinion is that the law violates privacy protections found in the Georgia Constitution and is thereby unconstitutional. Were a plaintiff to challenge the heartbeat law on those grounds in state court, she as attorney general would not defend it.

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Jordan’s stance is disturbing. The legal hair splitting aside, the state attorney general should not get to pick and choose which laws to defend. Lawyers have a professional responsibility to provide the best possible defense to their clients, and often that requires arguing for someone or something in spite of flaws.

No matter how you feel about the heartbeat bill, the legislation was passed by a majority of the Georgia General Assembly, a body elected by the people to craft and pass laws. If Jordan wants to change laws, she should run for governor or stay in her current post in the Georgia Senate. If she wants the heartbeat law struck down, she should step down and file a challenge.

If Jordan won’t defend the heartbeat law, what others will she ignore should she be elected to office? Attorneys have mastered the art of interpreting the language of laws to fit their own purposes. Is the permit-less firearms law on her “do not defend” list? What about the mental health law passed earlier this year? What else?

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Or is Jordan’s abortion law stance just rhetoric meant to drive turnout among pro-choice voters who might not fully understand the attorney general’s responsibilities and the unintended consequences of electing a cherry-picking AG?

The Georgia AG’s office is not a part of the governmental checks-and-balance system. The public needs to press Jordan on what she considers the role of the office and the limits of its powers.

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Georgia attorney general candidate Jen Jordan against abortion law