Updated Mar 15, 2024 - Politics & Policy

What to know about Scott McAfee, the judge overseeing Trump's Georgia case

Fulton County Judge Scott McAfee is presiding over Trump's Georgia case.

Judge Scott McAfee at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia on Feb. 27. Photo: Brynn Anderson/AP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Fulton County Judge Scott McAfee ruled Friday that the Georgia election interference case against former President Trump can move forward with District Attorney Fani Willis if the special prosecutor she hired steps down.

Why it matters: McAfee's decision creates an avenue for the high-profile case against the likely GOP presidential nominee to proceed as the 2024 election approaches.

  • The ruling was a win for Willis, but still highly critical of her and special prosecutor Nathan Wade. The prosecutors admitted to having a romantic relationship after defense lawyers asked the court to disqualify them from the case for a conflict of interest.
  • McAfee wrote that his decision is "by no means an indication that the Court condones this tremendous lapse in judgment or the unprofessional manner of the District Attorney's testimony during the evidentiary hearing."
  • He added, "An odor of mendacity remains."

Catch up quick: The Georgia case had been on hold pending McAfee's ruling on the disqualification effort.

  • The sweeping case against the former president and more than a dozen co-defendants includes a charge centered around RICO, the state's expansive racketeering law — a legal tool normally reserved for the Mafia and organized crime.
  • McAfee dismissed six counts in Willis' original indictment, including three against the former president, over insufficient "detail" but said prosecutors could seek to refile the quashed charges.

McAfee's role in Fani Willis disqualification bid

McAfee found the allegations of an improper relationship between Willis and special prosecutor Nathan Wade serious enough to move forward with evidentiary hearings.

  • Both Willis and Wade testified that they had a romantic relationship but that it did not begin until early 2022 — after Willis hired Wade to lead the case in November 2021.
  • Willis — McAfee's onetime boss — also denied defense lawyers' accusations that she had improperly financially benefitted from Wade's employment on the case by accepting travel or gifts from Wade using the money he was paid.

What he's saying: "The message I want to convey is no ruling of mine is ever going to be based on politics. I'm going to be following the law the best I understand it," McAfee said in an interview before the ruling this week with WSB-TV, an Atlanta ABC affiliate.

Flashback: McAfee's ruling against pro-Trump attorney Lin Wood last summer offers insight into how he might approach public statements by Trump ahead of the trial, ABC News reported.

Zoom out: McAfee has received threats during the case, including a swatting incident at his home in the Atlanta area, per the Washington Post.

McAfee's background

McAfee, 34, earned his law degree from the University of Georgia. He also studied music at Emory University, playing cello in the university symphony orchestra.

  • He previously served as the Georgia inspector general.
  • "Scott McAfee is a strong addition to my administration," Kemp said in 2021 when he appointed McAfee to the role.
  • McAfee previously worked as a state and federal prosecutor, serving as assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Georgia and as senior assistant district attorney in the Fulton County Atlanta Judicial Circuit.
  • He also interned for two Republican State Supreme Court justices, Keith Blackwell and David Nahmias.
  • Kemp tapped McAfee for his role on the Fulton County Superior Court by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) in December 2022.
  • McAfee is running to retain his seat on the court but currently faces two opponents in the race.

Go deeper: The stakes of Georgia's case against Trump

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout and a new photo.

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