Georgia court to take up Trump's appeal of Willis disqualification ruling, possibly delaying election case

The move could delay the Fulton County election interference case against Trump.

May 8, 2024, 10:51 AM

An appeals court in Georgia has agreed to take up former President Donald Trump's appeal of the Fani Willis disqualification ruling that ultimately allowed her to remain on the Georgia election interference case -- a move that could significantly delay the case against the former president.

The Georgia Court of Appeals, in a one-page order, said they would grant the request to review the ruling from Judge Scott McAfee.

Trump and his codefendants now have 10 days to file the appeal.

In a statement, Trump attorney Steve Sadow said, "President Trump looks forward to presenting interlocutory arguments to the Georgia Court of Appeals as to why the case should be dismissed and Fulton County DA Willis should be disqualified for her misconduct in this unjustified, unwarranted political persecution."

The Fulton County DA's office declined to comment to ABC News.

In March, Judge McAfee declined to disqualify Willis, the Fulton County DA, based on allegations that she and prosecutor Nathan Wade conspired to bring the election interference case to enrich themselves with public money.

An attorney for Mike Roman, who first filed the disqualification motion in January, said in a statement to ABC News that they are "very pleased" with the decision and "feel confident" Willis will be disqualified.

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump arrives for an election-night watch party at Mar-a-Lago, March 5, 2024, in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump arrives for an election-night watch party at Mar-a-Lago, March 5, 2024, in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Win Mcnamee/Getty Images

"We are very pleased that the Georgia Court of Appeals agreed that this was an issue of such great importance that it required to be heard prior to any trial in this case," Ashleigh Merchant, Roman's attorney, said in the statement. "We feel confident that, when it reviews the clear evidence of conflict in this case, the Court of Appeals will agree with us and disqualify Ms. Willis and her entire office from further prosecution of this matter and require that a neutral prosecutor be appointed to review whether these charges are even appropriate."

Legal experts tell ABC News that while the appeals court's ruling does not automatically pause the interference case, it is very possible the case will be significantly delayed, further reducing the likelihood that there will be a trial in Georgia before the presidential election.

Once the appeal is docketed, said an order from the court on the disqualification issue can take up to six months, experts said. Judge McAfee had vowed to keep the case going during this time, but Trump and his codefendants can now ask for a stay while the appeal works its way through the system.

ABC News contributor and legal expert Chris Timmons said he doubts the case will move forward in the meantime.

"I doubt McAfee is going to try this case while the appeal is pending," Timmons said. "It wouldn't make any sense to try a case when you have the issue of who the prosecutor is going to be."

Trump and 18 others pleaded not guilty last August to all charges in a sweeping racketeering indictment for alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the state of Georgia. Four defendants subsequently took plea deals in exchange for agreeing to testify against other defendants.

The former president has blasted the district attorney's investigation as being politically motivated.

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