Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Georgia
Rockdale County et al.. v. U. S. Enterprises, Inc.
This case arose from Rockdale County, Georgia's denial of an application for a permit to build a QuikTrip on property owned by William Corey and U.S. Enterprises, Inc. (the “Owners”), on the ground that the proposed facility was a “truck stop,” which was a prohibited use under the County’s Unified Development Ordinance (“UDO”). After the County’s Board of Adjustment affirmed the denial of the permit, the Owners filed a petition to the Rockdale County Superior Court seeking, among other things, certiorari under OCGA 5-4-1 et seq. The superior court sustained the petition for certiorari, rejecting the County’s argument that the Owners’ lawsuit was barred by res judicata and reversing the Board’s decision on the ground that the UDO’s applicable definition of a “truck stop” was unconstitutionally vague and therefore violated due process under the Georgia Constitution. The Georgia Supreme Court granted County’s application for a discretionary appeal, and the Owners then cross-appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s rejection of the County’s res judicata argument, reversed the part of the superior court’s judgment ruling that the “truck stop” definition was unconstitutionally vague, and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Court's holding made it unnecessary to address the Owners’ cross-appeal, which was accordingly dismissed as moot. View "Rockdale County et al.. v. U. S. Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law
Dept. of Transportation v. Mixon
Cathy Mixon sued the Georgia Department of Transportation (“GDOT,” or “the State”), claiming nuisance and inverse condemnation based on alleged flooding on her property following a road-widening project. Mixon claimed GDOT’s failure to maintain its storm water drainage systems resulted in regular flooding, drainage, and erosion problems “within and around” her property. Her complaint sought “just and adequate compensation” for the alleged taking, other money damages, attorney fees, and a permanent injunction “to prevent future nuisance and continual trespass[.]” GDOT moved to dismiss, which the trial court granted in part and denied in part. In particular, the trial court dismissed any claims arising from professional negligence (due to the lack of an expert affidavit, as required by OCGA 9-11-9.1) and any claims arising more than four years prior to the filing of the complaint (due to the applicable statute of limitations). The trial court otherwise denied GDOT’s motion. Among other things, the trial court rejected GDOT’s argument that sovereign immunity barred Mixon’s claims. The Court of Appeals granted GDOT’s application for interlocutory appeal and then affirmed, holding in relevant part that the trial court did not err in ruling that sovereign immunity is waived for Mixon’s claims for damages and injunctive relief. The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed: because Mixon’s claim for injunctive relief ... fell into at least one of the two categories of situations in which the Just Compensation Provision acted as a waiver of sovereign immunity for injunctive relief. View "Dept. of Transportation v. Mixon" on Justia Law
Schmitz v. Barron et al.
Warren Schmitz contested the results of the November 3, 2020, election to fill the seat for Georgia House of Representatives District 52. The certified election results showed that 17,069 votes were cast for Shea Roberts, and 16,692 votes were cast for incumbent Deborah Silcox, thus making Roberts the winner by 377 votes. Claiming a variety of irregularities, Schmitz filed a timely petition in Fulton County Superior Court on November 25, 2020, to contest the results of the House District 52 election. On April 22, 2021, that petition was dismissed by the superior court based on its determination that Roberts had to be served with the notice of the election contest under OCGA 21-2-524 (f) and its finding that Schmitz failed to exercise diligence to see that Roberts was properly served. On appeal, Schmitz contended these determinations were erroneous and that the trial court lacked the authority to dismiss the case on this basis. However, the Georgia Supreme Court agreed with the superior court that OCGA 21-2-524 (f) required candidates to be served with notice of the election contest. "Moreover, because the findings of the superior court with respect to diligence are supported by the record and because dismissal of the election contest was within the superior court’s discretion, we affirm." View "Schmitz v. Barron et al." on Justia Law
Gatto et al. v. City of Statesboro et al.
Michael and Katherine Gatto filed suit against the City of Statesboro and City Clerk Sue Starling, alleging negligence and maintenance of a nuisance, after their son, Michael, died following an altercation at a bar in the University Plaza area of the City. The trial court granted summary judgment to both defendants, based in part on sovereign immunity. The Court of Appeals affirmed as to the City, solely on the ground of sovereign immunity. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to address municipal immunity in the context of a nuisance claim. The Court held that the Citywasis immune from liability for the conduct alleged here, because municipalities never faced liability for a nuisance claim based on alleged conduct related to property they neither owned nor controlled, and "nothing in our Constitution alters that principle." Accordingly, judgment was affirmed. View "Gatto et al. v. City of Statesboro et al." on Justia Law
Love et al. v. Fulton Cty. Bd. of Tax Assessors et al.
This case arose from a taxpayer grievance concerning whether the Fulton County Board of Tax Assessors (the “Board”) had been diligent in determining that the Atlanta Falcons Stadium Company LLC (“StadCo”) had a usufruct interest in the Mercedez-Benz Stadium that was not subject to ad valorem taxation. In 2017, Albert Love and other Fulton County taxpayers (collectively, Appellants) sued the Board, the individual members of the Board, and the Board’s Chief Appraiser, seeking mandamus and other relief. Since then, the suit was dismissed, appealed to the Court of Appeals, remanded, amended to add claims and intervenors, then dismissed again. At issue in this appeal was whether the trial court properly dismissed Appellants’ fourth amended petition, which asserted claims for mandamus, declaratory and injunctive relief, and a refund of taxes paid. Appellants contended the trial court erred in dismissing the petition, allegedly sua sponte, arguing primarily that the trial court had applied an incorrect standard of review. They also contended the trial court erred in declining to find OCGA 10-9-10 unconstitutional. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal. View "Love et al. v. Fulton Cty. Bd. of Tax Assessors et al." on Justia Law
Duke v. Georgia
In 2017, a grand jury indicted Ryan Duke for malice murder and related offenses in connection with the October 2005 death of Tara Grinstead. For approximately 17 months, Duke was represented by a public defender from the Tifton Judicial Circuit’s Public Defender’s Office. Then, in August 2018, Duke’s public defender withdrew from representation and John Merchant and Ashleigh Merchant filed an entry of appearance, indicating that they were representing Duke pro bono. The Georgia Supreme Court granted interlocutory review in this case to determine whether the trial court erred in determining whether Duke had neither a statutory right under the Indigent Defense Act of 2003, nor a constitutional right to state-funded experts and investigators needed to prepare a defense, notwithstanding private counsel as his representation. Contrary to the trial court’s conclusion, the Supreme Court found the IDA allowed an indigent defendant to obtain such ancillary defense services through a contract between pro bono counsel and either the Georgia Public Defender Council (“GPDC”) or the appropriate circuit public defender. Consequently, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Duke v. Georgia" on Justia Law
Polo Golf & County Club Homeowners Assn., Inc. v. Cunard et al.
At the center of this appeal was a dispute between the Polo Golf and Country Club Homeowners’ Association (the “HOA”) and Forsyth County over the validity of Section 4.2.2 of Forsyth County’s Addendum to the Georgia Stormwater Management Manual, an ordinance that made HOAs “responsible for maintenance of all drainage easements and all stormwater facilities within the entire development.” The HOA argued that Section 4.2.2 was unconstitutional and otherwise invalid, and that individual lot owners were responsible for maintaining stormwater infrastructure on their lots. Variants of this case were litigated and appealed multiple times before the Georgia Supreme Court and other Georgia courts, including a 2019 appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court. On remand from the Supreme Court's "Polo Golf II" decision, the trial court evaluated and rejected the HOA’s remaining claims that Section 4.2.2 was invalid because it required the HOA to trespass on the private property of homeowners, constituted involuntary servitude under the United States and Georgia Constitutions, and exceeded the scope of the ordinance that authorized Forsyth County to promulgate the Addendum. The trial court thus denied the HOA’s motion for summary judgment and granted the defendants’ cross-motion for summary judgment. The HOA appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Polo Golf & County Club Homeowners Assn., Inc. v. Cunard et al." on Justia Law
Polo Golf & Country Club Homeowners Association, Inc. v. Cunard et al.
At heart of this case was a dispute between the Polo Golf and Country Club Homeowners’ Association (the “HOA”) and Forsyth County, Georgia over the validity of Section 4.2.2 of Forsyth County’s Addendum to the Georgia Stormwater Management Manual, an ordinance that made HOAs “responsible for maintenance of all drainage easements and all stormwater facilities within the entire development.” The HOA argued Section 4.2.2 was unconstitutional and otherwise invalid, and that individual lot owners were responsible for maintaining stormwater infrastructure on their lots. Variants of this case have been litigated and appealed multiple times before other Georgia courts, including a 2019 appeal the Georgia Supreme Court. On remand from the Supreme Court's "Polo Golf II" decision, the trial court evaluated and rejected the HOA’s remaining claims that Section 4.2.2 was invalid because it required the HOA to trespass on the private property of homeowners, constituted involuntary servitude under the United States and Georgia Constitutions, and exceeded the scope of the ordinance that authorized Forsyth County to promulgate the Addendum. The trial court thus denied the HOA’s motion for summary judgment and granted the defendants’ cross-motion for summary judgment. The HOA appealed, and finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Polo Golf & Country Club Homeowners Association, Inc. v. Cunard et al." on Justia Law
Oconee County v. Cannon et al.
Ronald and Christy Cannon sued Oconee County, Georgia after a vehicle chase initiated by an Oconee County sheriff’s deputy ended in their daughter’s death. The trial court granted the County’s motion for summary judgment, holding that: (1) the Sheriff of Oconee County in his official capacity, not the County, was liable for the deputy’s actions; and (2) the Cannons could not substitute the Oconee County Sheriff in his official capacity as the defendant in place of Oconee County because the statute of limitations had expired and the relation-back doctrine embodied in OCGA 9-11-15 (c) did not apply. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s determination as to the proper defendant but reversed its ruling that relation-back did not apply. The Georgia Supreme Court held that the application of the relation-back doctrine depended on whether the proper defendant knew or should have known that the action would have been brought against him but for the plaintiff’s mistake, not on what the plaintiff knew or should have known and not on whether the plaintiff’s mistake was legal or factual. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the Court of Appeals and remanded with direction for the trial court for application of the proper standard. View "Oconee County v. Cannon et al." on Justia Law
Rhoden, et al. v. Athens-Clarke County Bd. of Elections, et al.
Jerry NeSmith earned enough support to be placed on the ballot for the office of district commissioner for the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government. NeSmith died just three days before Election Day. In addition to the personal loss of his family and friends, NeSmith’s death before Election Day ultimately resulted in an electoral loss for his supporters, a number of whom joined to bring suit in superior court challenging the results of the election. The Georgia Supreme Court found that because the applicable Georgia statutes dictated that votes cast on paper ballots for a candidate who died before Election Day were void, none of the votes cast for NeSmith had legal effect. Therefore, the Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections properly applied Georgia law by voiding votes cast for NeSmith and declaring Jesse Houle the commissioner-elect for Athens-Clarke County Commission. The superior court order dismissing appellants' election challenge was affirmed. View "Rhoden, et al. v. Athens-Clarke County Bd. of Elections, et al." on Justia Law