GA BlackRobe Mafia Strikes Again! This time, they cut the cases they have to rule on more than 50%. Ask yourself, just what does GA Supreme Court do?

Ga. Appellate Practice § 12:4Georgia Appellate Practice With Forms
November 2016 Update
Christopher J. McFaddena0, Charles R. Shepparda1, Charles M. Cork IIIa2, George W. K. Snyder, Jr.a3, David A. Webstera4, Kelly A. Jenkinsa5

Chapter 12. Overview of the Appellate Process§ 12:4. Selecting the proper court—Particular types of cases
Before the Appellate Jurisdiction Reform Act of 2016, the Georgia Supreme Court had appellate jurisdiction over 10 categories of cases specified in the Georgia Constitution,(fn1) and the Court of Appeals had jurisdiction over the rest. The limits of each category were interpreted in numerous decisions, many of which are discussed in the remainder of this section, and many of which are obscure or debatable. The Appellate Jurisdiction Reform Act will change that allocation of appellate jurisdiction significantly, by shifting several categories of cases over to the Court of Appeals. This transfer will take effect for notices of appeal or applications to appeal that are filed on or after January 1, 2017. (fn2)

Constitutional questions.
The Supreme Court has exclusive appellate jurisdiction over cases calling for the construction of the Georgia Constitution (fn3) and cases in which the constitutionality of a law has been drawn in question. (fn4) This jurisdiction, which the Appellate Jurisdiction Reform Act does not alter, expressly extends to cases involving the constitutionality of ordinances. (fn5) Administrative regulations, however, are not laws within the meaning of the Constitution, and thus, the Court of Appeals has jurisdiction to resolve whether a particular regulation is constitutional.(fn6) In order to invoke the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction a constitutional question must be distinctly raised and ruled on by the trial court,(fn7) but an oral ruling is sufficient. (fn8) The question must also be timely raised; the Supreme Court will transfer cases involving constitutional questions that are untimely raised even if the trial court rules upon them.(fn9) The ruling must address the merits of the constitutional challenge; a ruling that the constitutional challenge was untimely does not confer jurisdiction upon the Supreme Court.(fn10) However, if the trial court also rules on the merits of the challenge as an alternative basis for its judgment, the Supreme Court has jurisdiction. (fn11) If a constitutional question is raised and ruled upon below, the Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction on appeal even if, upon consideration of the entire case, the Supreme Court determines that the case can be properly resolved without deciding the constitutional issue and declines to decide the constitutional issue.(fn12) The Supreme Court has jurisdiction over an appeal raising such constitutional questions even if appellate jurisdiction is based on a non-constitutional ruling, so long as the constitutional question is within the scope of pendent appellate jurisdiction under O.C.G.A. § 5-6-34(d). (fn13)

Mere mention of a constitutional principle will not bring a case within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. “The Court of Appeals has jurisdiction to decide questions of law that involve the application, in a general sense, of unquestioned and unambiguous provisions of the Constitution.” (fn14) After one challenge to the constitutionality of a statute has been considered and rejected by the Supreme Court, subsequent challenges on the same point are relegated to the Court of Appeals. (fn15) Different constitutional challenges to the same statute will be within the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction if the other criteria discussed above are met. (fn16)

The Supreme Court has overruled a line of cases that had interpreted transfers of cases to the Court of Appeals as implied holdings that there is no meritorious constitutional issue in the case.(fn17) For instance, the Court of Appeals may consider whether the evidence in the case should lead to a result different from the case in which the Supreme Court decided the constitutional point. (fn18)

Election contests.
The Supreme Court has exclusive appellate jurisdiction in all cases of election contest. (fn19) This jurisdiction, which the Appellate Jurisdiction Reform Act does not alter, extends to challenges to candidates for and results of elections. (fn20) It does not extend to other election-related issues, such as the qualifications of a voter.

Title to land.
After January 1, 2017, the Court of Appeals will have jurisdiction over appeals involving title to land. (fn21) Until then, the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over these cases. The Supreme Court’s jurisdiction over cases involving title to land has been described as limited to actions “such as ejectment and statutory substitutes, in which the plaintiff asserts a presently enforceable legal title against the possession of the defendant for the purpose of recovering the land.” (fn22) Other cases have conceived that jurisdiction more broadly so as to include actions to remove encumbrances from title. (fn23) These two understandings of the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction over cases involving title to land have yet to be reconciled. (fn24) Cases in which the right of possession and not title to land are in dispute are for the Court of Appeals. (fn25) Cases in which the issue on appeal does not involve a dispute over title, though the underlying case is entirely about title, belong in the Court of Appeals. (fn26)

A suit to cancel a deed or to declare it void for lack of valid consideration is not within the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction. (fn27) Likewise, a suit seeking to set aside a conveyance on grounds of fraud is not within the Supreme Court’s “title to land” jurisdiction. (fn28) A suit for specific performance of a real estate contract is not a suit concerning “title to land.” (fn29) A suit for reformation of a deed is not a case involving title to land. (fn30) An appeal calling for the court to construe a deed belongs in the Court of Appeals if the present title to the property does not turn on that construction. (fn31) Because easements do not affect title to property, the Court of Appeals has jurisdiction of cases concerning them. (fn32) Boundary-line cases are likewise within the province of the Court of Appeals, notwithstanding that such cases usually involve incidental issues relating to equitable relief. (fn33) In cases involving lis pendens, where the underlying issue is a legal question which does not involve title to land and which can be resolved without resort to equity, the Court of Appeals has jurisdiction. (fn34) Appeals involving foreclosure proceedings do not involve title to land. (fn35) The Supreme Court has transferred to the Court of Appeals an appeal of an action seeking to set aside a tax sale. (fn36) Likewise, the Court of Appeals has jurisdiction over appeals in suits seeking to set aside fraudulent conveyances. (fn37) The Court of Appeals has jurisdiction over condemnation cases in which “a recovery of land is not being sought” and the only issue “for determination is the amount of just and adequate compensation that must be paid for that condemned property.” (fn38)

However, partitioning does involve title to land, and appellate jurisdiction in such cases rests in the Supreme Court.(fn39) Appeals on the merits of suits seeking to remove clouds on title belong in the Supreme Court. (fn40) A suit to establish priority among the liens on property, though, lies within the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals. (fn41)

Equity cases.
After January 1, 2017, the Court of Appeals will have jurisdiction over appeals in all equity cases “except those cases concerning proceedings in which a sentence of death was imposed or could be imposed and those cases concerning the execution of a sentence of death.” (fn42) Until then, the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over these cases. The Supreme Court has jurisdiction where the issue on appeal involves the legality or propriety of equitable relief. (fn43) If the appeal raises questions about the scope of equitable relief granted below or how the superior court molded the relief, the appeal is within the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction. (fn44) It has jurisdiction over an injunction that is entered upon the application of equitable principles (fn45) and an action to obtain the equitable relief of virtual adoption. (fn46)

The Supreme Court has drawn a “distinction between an equity case and a case wherein equitable relief was sought.” (fn47) An appeal is not an “equity case” for purposes of the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction if the award of injunctive or other equitable relief is or would be merely ancillary to the determination of legal rights, and the only substantive contentions relate to issues of law; in such cases, appellate jurisdiction belongs in the Court of Appeals.(fn48) Similarly, a trial court’s ruling on an equitable issue does not bring a case within the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction unless the equitable ruling is appealed.)fn49) Raising an equitable defense in a case otherwise within the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals does not bring the case within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.(fn50) Thus, a claim that the superior court should have exercised equitable discretion not to grant equitable relief that would otherwise follow upon resolution of the underlying legal issue belongs in the Court of Appeals. (fn51)

Accordingly, the Supreme Court has transferred to the Court of Appeals actions for declaratory judgments,(fn52) boundary-line cases,(fn53) actions to enforce non-compete provisions in employment agreements,(fn54) actions by homeowners to enforce restrictive covenants, (fn55) actions to impose an implied or constructive trust on real or personal property,(fn56) actions calling for an interpretation of trust terms,(fn57) actions seeking to enforce equitable subrogation,(fn58) actions to reform deeds or contracts,(fn59) actions to set aside or cancel deeds,(fn60) and actions for specific performance of a real estate contract.(fn61) By a 4-3 vote, the Supreme Court transferred to the Court of Appeals a “dispute involving the imposition of a constructive trust on certain real property” in which it appeared to the Court of Appeals “that all the issues here are equitable in nature.” (fn62) In dissent, three justices have expressed doubt whether any cases at all remain within the Supreme Court’s equity jurisdiction.(fn63)

Cases involving wills.
After January 1, 2017, the Court of Appeals will have jurisdiction over appeals involving wills. (fn64) Until then, the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over these cases. The Supreme Court has narrowly construed the constitutional provision assigning it jurisdiction of “all cases involving wills.” (fn65) That provision refers only to “those cases in which the will’s validity or meaning is in question.” (fn66) An appeal from the dismissal of a caveat to a will on grounds that it was untimely does not come within the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction. (fn67) Cases involving the appointment of an executor belong in the Court of Appeals. (fn68) The Supreme Court has transferred a case to the Court of Appeals involving the characterization of assets of the estate as coming within the meaning of a term of the will, even though that characterization would necessarily involve deciding the meaning of the term as an ancillary matter. (fn69)

Extraordinary remedies.
After January 1, 2017, the Court of Appeals will have jurisdiction over appeals in all cases involving extraordinary remedies “except those cases concerning proceedings in which a sentence of death was imposed or could be imposed and those cases concerning the execution of a sentence of death.” (fn70) Until then, the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over these cases. Cases involving the grant or denial of writs of mandamus or prohibition differ from other topics under the Supreme Court’s constitutional jurisdiction in that the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over such cases without regard to the underlying subject matter or the legal issues raised. (fn71) However, where the plaintiff has sought relief in addition to mandamus relief, and the appeal relates only to the non-mandamus relief, the Court of Appeals has jurisdiction over the appeal. (fn72) If the extraordinary remedy sought is not an appropriate remedy in the case, the Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction on that basis. (fn73) If the ruling alleged to be a denial of mandamus relief is more properly characterized as a denial of a motion in a criminal case, jurisdiction lies in the Court of Appeals.)fn74)

Divorce and alimony cases.
After January 1, 2017, the Court of Appeals will have jurisdiction over appeals involving divorce and alimony cases. (fn75) Until then, the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over these cases. The provision assigning “all divorce and alimony cases” to the Supreme Court (fn76) uses different, narrower language than the provision that subjects all “domestic relations cases” to the discretionary appeal procedure. (fn77) The Court of Appeals has jurisdiction over all domestic relations cases other than “divorce and alimony” cases. (fn78) Most notably, appeals involving child custody are to the Court of Appeals unless the appeal also involves a judgment for divorce and alimony. (fn79) The same is true of child support appeals: they belong in the Supreme Court if they arise in the context of a divorce or alimony case, but the appeal goes to the Court of Appeals otherwise. (fn80) Appeals in modification cases will go to the Supreme Court if the original award was a “divorce or alimony” case. (fn81) Suits to domesticate a foreign divorce decree or to enforce child support provisions in foreign divorce decrees, even by contempt, are deemed suits on foreign judgments, not divorce or alimony cases within the meaning of the Constitution, and jurisdiction of such appeals is in the Court of Appeals. (fn82) Jurisdiction over appeals from orders under the Family Violence Act lies in the Court of Appeals. (fn83)

In cases where a complaint for divorce is combined with a tort, contract or other claim, if an interlocutory appeal “involves only a contract or tort claim or any matter other than divorce or alimony, then the appeal does not constitute a divorce or alimony case within the meaning of our state constitution” and appellate jurisdiction is in the Court of Appeals. (fn84) Contempt actions that are ancillary to the underlying divorce action and that involve issues other than custody fall within the divorce and alimony jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. (fn85) Resolution of property disputes between divorced spouses that were unresolved in an earlier divorce suit is not within the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction. (fn86)

Murder cases.
Where murder and other charges are brought in a single indictment, but severed for trial, they remain severed on appeal. In such a case, jurisdiction over convictions on the murder charge is in the Supreme Court, and jurisdiction over convictions on the other charges is in the Court of Appeals.(fn87) On the other hand, where murder and other charges are to be tried together jurisdiction over a pre-conviction appeal is in the Supreme Court. (fn88) Where murder and other charges have been tried together an appeal relating only to the non-murder charges will be in the Supreme Court if the murder count remains pending in the court below. (fn89)

Footnotes
a0Judge, Georgia Court of Appeals. Member of the Atlanta and DeKalb Bars.
a1Member of the Augusta Bar.
a2Member of the Macon Bar Association.
a3Judicial Staff Attorney. Member of the DeKalb Bar.
a4Member, State Bar of Georgia.
a5Assistant District Attorney, Middle Judicial District.
1 Ga. Const. 1983, Art. VI, § VI, ¶¶II, III.
2 Williford v. Brown, 299 Ga. 15, 785 S.E.2d 864 (2016).
3 State Dept. of Corrections v. Developers Sur. and Indemn. Co., 295 Ga. 741, 763 S.E.2d 868 (2014).
4 Ga. Const. 1983, Art. VI, § VI, ¶II.
5 Willis v. City of Atlanta, 285 Ga. 775, 684 S.E.2d 271 (2009).
6 Georgia Dept. of Community Health v. Northside Hosp., Inc., 324 Ga. App. 326, 750 S.E.2d 401 (2013), judgment rev’d on other grounds, 295 Ga. 446, 761 S.E.2d 74 (2014). Contrast State v. International Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Inc., 788 S.E.2d 455 (Ga. 2016) (Supreme Court has jurisdiction over a constitutional challenge to denial of a permit for roadway sign under agency regulations).
7 Jones v. State, 292 Ga. 656, 740 S.E.2d 590 (2013); Kendrick v. State, 335 Ga. App. 766, 782 S.E.2d 842 (2016); Dailey v. Abdul-Samed, 319 Ga. App. 380, 736 S.E.2d 142 (2012).
8 Jenkins v. State, 284 Ga. 642 (1), 670 S.E.2d 425 (2008).
9 Brinkley v. State, 291 Ga. 195, 728 S.E.2d 598 (2012); Barrow v. Mikell, 331 Ga. App. 547, 771 S.E.2d 211 (2015), rev’d on other grounds, 298 Ga. 429, 782 S.E.2d 439 (2016).
10 Rooney v. State, 287 Ga. 1, 690 S.E.2d 804 (2010).
11 Rooney v. State, 287 Ga. 1, 690 S.E.2d 804 (2010).
12 Harrison v. Wigington, 269 Ga. 388, 497 S.E.2d 568 (1998).
13 Malloy v. State, 293 Ga. 350, 744 S.E.2d 778 (2013).
14 Pollard v. State, 229 Ga. 698, 194 S.E.2d 107 (1972); Kroupa v. Cobb County, 262 Ga. 451, 421 S.E.2d 283 (1992).For a case in which the Supreme Court held that Court of Appeals overstepped that authority, see City of Decatur v. DeKalb County, 284 Ga. 434, 668 S.E.2d 247 (2008). For a commentary criticizing both the substance and the tone of City of Decatur see Kenneth A. Hindman, Supreme Court Muddles Rules for Exclusive Constitutional Jurisdiction: A Comment on City of Decatur v. DeKalb County, The Appellate Review, Vol. 8, No. 1, Winter 2008, available at http://www.gabar.org/sections/section_web_pages/appellate_practice_section/section_newsletters/.
15 Williams v. State, 273 Ga. 848, 546 S.E.2d 522 (2001). Although the transfer of an appeal by the Supreme Court to the Court of Appeals is not a rejection on the merits of a constitutional question, it is often “a final determination that no constitutional question was in fact properly raised.” Nahid v. State, 276 Ga. App. 687, 624 S.E.2d 264 (2005); Hughes v. State, 266 Ga. App. 652, 598 S.E.2d 43 (2004); Schmidt v. Feldman, 230 Ga. App. 500, 497 S.E.2d 23 (1998).
16 Zarate-Martinez v. Echemendia, 788 S.E.2d 405 (Ga. 2016).
17 Atlanta Independent School System v. Lane, 266 Ga. 657, 469 S.E.2d 22, 108 Ed. Law Rep. 1297 (1996). But see Braden v. Bell, 222 Ga. App. 144, 473 S.E.2d 523 (1996), as to the extent of the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals over constitutional questions and as to the practical effect of the Atlanta Independent ruling. Notwithstanding the Atlanta Independent ruling, the net effect of these transfers is very often that the only written appellate opinion as to a constitutional issue is from a court whose only authority is to reject the argument. See Braden v. Bell, 222 Ga. App. 144, 473 S.E.2d 523 (1996) (Beasley, C.J., concurring).
18 Head v. State, 303 Ga. App. 475, 693 S.E.2d 845 (2010).
19 Ga. Const. Art. VI, § VI, ¶II.
20 Cook v. Board of Registrars of Randolph County, 291 Ga. 67, 727 S.E.2d 478 (2012).
21 O.C.G.A. § 15-3-3.1(a)(1).
22 Graham v. Tallent, 235 Ga. 47, 218 S.E.2d 799 (1975) (surveying cases excluded and included within the “title to land” provision and providing the focus on ejectment-like actions); Navy Federal Credit Union v. McCrea, 337 Ga. App. 103, 786 S.E.2d 707 (2016); Cole v. Cole, 205 Ga. App. 332, 422 S.E.2d 230 (1992).
23 Hunstein v. Fiksman, 279 Ga. 559, 615 S.E.2d 526 (2005) (action to invalidate liens on property); Tharp v. Harpagon Co., 278 Ga. 654, 604 S.E.2d 156 (2004) (action to remove cloud from title).
24 In Stearns Bank, N.A. v. Dozetos, 328 Ga. App. 106, 761 S.E.2d 520 (2014), the Supreme Court transferred to the Court of Appeals the appeal of a case in which the plaintiff sought to invalidate an encumbrance on land, pursuant to the standard established Graham v. Tallent, 235 Ga. 47, 218 S.E.2d 799 (1975), but not apparently addressing its own rulings in Hunstein v. Fiksman, 279 Ga. 559, 615 S.E.2d 526 (2005), and Tharp v. Harpagon Co., 278 Ga. 654, 604 S.E.2d 156 (2004).
25 Jordan v. Atlanta Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc., 251 Ga. 37, 302 S.E.2d 568 (1983) (appeal of a dispossessory proceeding filed after a foreclosure under a deed to secure to debt); Hall v. Hall, 303 Ga. App. 434, 693 S.E.2d 624 (2010) (distinguishing ejectment actions and dispossessories).
26 Boyd v. JohnGalt Holdings, LLC, 290 Ga. 658, 724 S.E.2d 395 (2012) (appeal from an order dismissing an appeal of title-related claims is not an appeal in which title is in dispute); DOCO Credit Union v. Chambers, 330 Ga. App. 633, 768 S.E.2d 808 (2015) (appeal deciding whether a quiet title action should be abated or dismissed for failure to state a claim, rather than title to land itself, belongs in the Court of Appeals).
27 Slaick v. Arnold, 307 Ga. App. 410, 705 S.E.2d 206 (2010); McCall v. Williams, 326 Ga. App. 99, 756 S.E.2d 217 (2014).
28 Holloway v. U.S. Bank Trust Nat. Ass’n, 317 Ga. App. 452, 731 S.E.2d 763 (2012).
29 Decision One Mortg. Co., LLC v. Victor Warren Properties, Inc., 304 Ga. App. 423, 696 S.E.2d 145 (2010).
30 Kim v. First Intercontinental Bank, 326 Ga. App. 424, 756 S.E.2d 655 (2014).
31 Wilkes v. Fraser, 324 Ga. App. 642, 751 S.E.2d 455 (2013).
32 Lovell v. Rea, 278 Ga. App. 740, 629 S.E.2d 459 (2006); Krystal Co. v. Carter, 256 Ga. 43, 343 S.E.2d 490 (1986); Roberts v. Roberts, 206 Ga. App. 423, 425 S.E.2d 414 (1992); Davis v. Foreman, 311 Ga. App. 775, 717 S.E.2d 295 (2011); Sermons v. Agasarkisian, 323 Ga. App. 642, 746 S.E.2d 596 (2013).
33 Beauchamp v. Knight, 261 Ga. 608, 409 S.E.2d 208 (1991); Hall v. Christian Church of Georgia, Inc., 280 Ga. App. 721, 634 S.E.2d 793 (2006); Fendley v. Weaver, 121 Ga. App. 526, 174 S.E.2d 369 (1970).
34 Everchanged, Inc. v. Young, 273 Ga. 474, 542 S.E.2d 505 (2001).
35 Graham v. Tallent, 235 Ga. 47, 218 S.E.2d 799 (1975); Arrington v. Reynolds, 274 Ga. 114, 549 S.E.2d 401 (2001).
36 Edwards v. Heartwood 11, Inc., 264 Ga. App. 354, 355, 590 S.E.2d 734, 736 (2003).
37 Kent v. White, 279 Ga. App. 563, 631 S.E.2d 782 (2006).
38 Georgia Dept. of Transp. v. Meadow Trace, Inc., 278 Ga. 423, 424, 603 S.E.2d 257, 258 (2004).
39 Wallace v. Wallace, 260 Ga. 400, 396 S.E.2d 208 (1990).This applies to both statutory and equitable partition actions. Ononye v. Ezeofor, 287 Ga. 201, 695 S.E.2d 234 (2010); Contrast Davis v. Davis, 287 Ga. 897, 700 S.E.2d 404 (2010) (appeal of partitioning of personal property is not within the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction).
40 Hunstein v. Fiksman, 279 Ga. 559, 615 S.E.2d 526 (2005); Tharp v. Harpagon Co., 278 Ga. 654, 604 S.E.2d 156 (2004). But see Stearns Bank, N.A. v. Dozetos, 328 Ga. App. 106, 761 S.E.2d 520 (2014), in which the Supreme Court transferred such a case to the Court of Appeals, taking a narrower view of its jurisdiction over title to land.
41 915 Indian Trail, LLC v. State Bank and Trust Co., 328 Ga. App. 524, 759 S.E.2d 654 (2014).
42 O.C.G.A. § 15-3-3.1(a)(2).
43 Williford v. Brown, 299 Ga. 15, 785 S.E.2d 864 (2016) (availability of novel equitable relief); Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, Inc. v. Ichthus Community Trust, 298 Ga. 221, 780 S.E.2d 311 (2015) (lifting stay against dispossessory action); Abel & Sons Concrete, LLC v. Juhnke, 295 Ga. 150, 757 S.E.2d 869 (2014) (appeal of injunctive relief based on procedural impropriety in granting it without notice); Alstep, Inc. v. State Bank and Trust Co., 293 Ga. 311, 745 S.E.2d 613 (2013) (challenge to propriety of appointing a receiver); Kemp v. Neal, 288 Ga. 324, 704 S.E.2d 175 (2010); Lamar County v. E.T. Carlyle Co., 277 Ga. 690, 594 S.E.2d 335 (2004).
44 Danforth v. Apple Inc., 294 Ga. 890, 757 S.E.2d 96 (2014); Kemp v. Neal, 288 Ga. 324, 704 S.E.2d 175 (2010).
45 Tunison v. Harper, 286 Ga. 687, 690 S.E.2d 819 (2010).
46 Morgan v. Howard, 285 Ga. 512, 678 S.E.2d 882 (2009).
47 Saxton v. Coastal Dialysis and Medical Clinic, Inc., 267 Ga. 177, 179, 476 S.E.2d 587 (1996). The purpose of the distinction is to narrow the Supreme Court’s equitable jurisdiction without narrowing the range of cases directly appealable pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 5-6-34(a)(4). See §§ 12:6 to 12:7 infra.
48 Kemp v. Neal, 288 Ga. 324, 704 S.E.2d 175 (2010), finding jurisdiction in the Supreme Court—by a vote of 4-to-3, over vigorous dissent – because determination of “precisely how the trial court should have molded the equitable relief … does not flow directly or automatically from the legal conclusion that [Appellants were entitled to relief]. Review of that equitable issue would require examination of the trial court’s exercise of discretion and depends upon equitable considerations.” See also Sentinel Offender SVCS., LLC v. Glover, 296 Ga. 315, 766 S.E.2d 456 (2014) (finding jurisdiction when permanent injunction “was not a ‘matter of routine once the underlying issues of law were resolved’”); Durham v. Durham, 291 Ga. 231, 728 S.E.2d 627 (2012); Trotman v. Velociteach Project Management, LLC, 311 Ga. App. 208, 715 S.E.2d 449 (2011); Reeves v. Newman, 287 Ga. 317, 695 S.E.2d 626 (2010); Pittman v. Harbin Clinic Professional Ass’n, 263 Ga. 66, 428 S.E.2d 328 (1993); Krystal Co. v. Carter, 256 Ga. 43, 343 S.E.2d 490 (1986); Beauchamp v. Knight, 261 Ga. 608, 409 S.E.2d 208 (1991). Cf. Electronic Data Systems Corp. v. Heinemann, 268 Ga. 755, 493 S.E.2d 132 (1997) (acknowledging “that the meaning of equity jurisdiction remains subject to confusion and frustration”). See further Johns v. Morgan, 281 Ga. 51, 635 S.E.2d 753 (2006). But see Sparks v. Jackson, 289 Ga. App. 840, 658 S.E.2d 456 (2008) (arguing that transfer from the Supreme Court eliminated issue of whether proceeds were divided equitably).
49 Clay v. Department of Transp., 198 Ga. App. 155, 400 S.E.2d 684 (1990). See also Strickland v. McElreath, 308 Ga. App. 627, 708 S.E.2d 580 (2011) (Smith, J., concurring) (observing seeming inconsistency in Supreme Court’s transfer of case to the Court of Appeals where the issue on appeal required characterizing the case as equitable for purposes of special venue provision).
50 Capitol Fish Co. v. Tanner, 192 Ga. App. 251, 384 S.E.2d 394 (1989).
51 Decision One Mortg. Co., LLC v. Victor Warren Props., Inc., 304 Ga. App. 423, 696 S.E.2d 145 (2010).
52 Wilkes v. Fraser, 324 Ga. App. 642, 751 S.E.2d 455 (2013).
53 Beauchamp v. Knight, 261 Ga. 608, 409 S.E.2d 208 (1991).
54 Pittman v. Harbin Clinic Professional Ass’n, 263 Ga. 66, 428 S.E.2d 328 (1993); Drawdy CPA Services, P.C. v. North GA CPA Services, P.C., 320 Ga. App. 759, 740 S.E.2d 712 (2013).
55 Redfearn v. Huntcliff Homes Ass’n, Inc., 271 Ga. 745, 524 S.E.2d 464 (1999).
56 Davis v. Davis, 287 Ga. 897, 700 S.E.2d 404 (2010); Reeves v. Newman, 287 Ga. 317, 695 S.E.2d 626 (2010).
57 Durham v. Durham, 291 Ga. 231, 728 S.E.2d 627 (2012); Rose v. Waldrip, 316 Ga. App. 812, 730 S.E.2d 529 (2012).
58 Kim v. First Intercontinental Bank, 326 Ga. App. 424, 756 S.E.2d 655 (2014).
59 Kim v. First Intercontinental Bank, 326 Ga. App. 424, 756 S.E.2d 655 (2014); First Chatham Bank v. Liberty Capital, LLC, 325 Ga. App. 821, 755 S.E.2d 219 (2014).
60 McCall v. Williams, 326 Ga. App. 99, 756 S.E.2d 217 (2014).
61 Decision One Mortg. Co., LLC v. Victor Warren Properties, Inc., 304 Ga. App. 423, 696 S.E.2d 145 (2010); Lee v. Green Land Co., Inc., 272 Ga. 107, 527 S.E.2d 204 (2000).
62 Troutman v. Troutman, 297 Ga. App. 62, n.1, 676 S.E.2d 787 (2009).
63 Lee v. Green Land Co., Inc., 272 Ga. 107, 527 S.E.2d 204 (2000) (Carley, J., dissenting, joined by Hunstein J.; Thompson, J., dissenting, joined by Hunstein, J.); Redfearn v. Huntcliff Homes Ass’n, Inc., 271 Ga. 745, 524 S.E.2d 464 (1999) (Carley, J., dissenting, joined by Hunstein, J.). But see Agan v. State, 272 Ga. 540, 533 S.E.2d 60 (2000), in which the majority did not address jurisdiction but appears to have exercised equitable jurisdiction and two justices dissented on the basis that jurisdiction was properly in the Court of Appeals.
64 O.C.G.A. § 15-3-3.1(a)(3).
65 Ga. Const. 1983, Art. VI, § VI, ¶III(3).
66 In re Estate of Lott, 251 Ga. 461, 306 S.E.2d 920 (1983).
67 In re Estate of Loyd, 328 Ga. App. 287, 761 S.E.2d 833 (2014).
68 In re Estate of Farkas, 325 Ga. App. 477, 753 S.E.2d 137 (2013).
69 Simmons v. England, 323 Ga. App. 251, 746 S.E.2d 862 (2013), judgment aff’d, 295 Ga. 1, 757 S.E.2d 111 (2014).
70 O.C.G.A. § 15-3-3.1(a)(4).
71 Goddard v. City of Albany, 285 Ga. 882, 684 S.E.2d 635 (2009); Mid Georgia Environmental Management Group, L.L.L.P. v. Meriwether County, 277 Ga. 670, 594 S.E.2d 344 (2004); Griffin v. State, 278 Ga. 669, 604 S.E.2d 155 (2004); Bynum v. State, 289 Ga. App. 636, 658 S.E.2d 196 (2008).But see more recent cases holding that the Court of Appeals has jurisdiction when the claim for an extraordinary remedy is disposed of without reaching the merits. Liberty County School Dist. v. Halliburton, 328 Ga. App. 422, 762 S.E.2d 138, 307 Ed. Law Rep. 1135 (2014) (claim dismissed because of immunity, without the grant or denial of mandamus); City of Stockbridge v. Stuart, 329 Ga. App. 323, 765 S.E.2d 16 (2014) (denial of mandamus as moot).
72 City of Tybee Island, Georgia v. Live Oak Group, LLC, 324 Ga. App. 476, 751 S.E.2d 123 (2013).
73 Richardson v. Phillips, 285 Ga. 385, 386, 677 S.E.2d 117, 118 (2009) (action seeking the remedy of quo warranto).
74 MacBeth v. State, 304 Ga. App. 466, 696 S.E.2d 435 (2010).
75 O.C.G.A. § 15-3-3.1(a)(5).
76 Ga. Const. 1983, Art. VI, § VI, ¶III(6).
77 O.C.G.A. § 5-6-35(a)(2).
78 Eickhoff v. Eickhoff, 263 Ga. 498, 499, 435 S.E.2d 914 (1993).
79 Ashburn v. Baker, 256 Ga. 507, 350 S.E.2d 437 (1986); Higdon v. Higdon, 321 Ga. App. 260, 739 S.E.2d 498 (2013). At one time, jurisdiction of child custody cases was in the Supreme Court pursuant to its jurisdiction of habeas corpus cases; the Supreme Court no longer has jurisdiction over child custody cases, as such, because child custody cases can no longer be brought as habeas cases. Munday v. Munday, 243 Ga. 863, 257 S.E.2d 282 (1979).
80 Parker v. Parker, 293 Ga. 300, 745 S.E.2d 605 (2013).
81 Spurlock v. Department of Human Resources, 286 Ga. 512, 690 S.E.2d 378 (2010); Williamson v. Williamson, 293 Ga. 721, 748 S.E.2d 679 (2013).
82 Davis v. Davis, 287 Ga. 897, 700 S.E.2d 404 (2010); Lewis v. Robinson, 254 Ga. 378, 329 S.E.2d 498 (1985).
83 Schmidt v. Schmidt, 270 Ga. 461, 510 S.E.2d 810 (1999).
84 Walker v. Estate of Mays, 279 Ga. 652, 619 S.E.2d 679 (2005) (action by former wife and children against estate for decedent’s failure to maintain life insurance policy as required by divorce decree, held to be a “domestic relations case [ ]” and therefore subject to the discretionary appeal procedure, but not a “divorce or alimony case” and therefore within the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals, rather than the Supreme Court); Gates v. Gates, 277 Ga. 175, 176, 587 S.E.2d 32, 33–34 (2003) (appeal involving immunity from tort claim); Rutter v. Rutter, 316 Ga. App. 894, 730 S.E.2d 626 (2012), rev’d on other grounds, 294 Ga. 1 (2013); (appeal involving suppression of evidence); Lacy v. Lacy, 320 Ga. App. 739, 740 S.E.2d 695 (2013) (appeal involving rulings on custody and recusal); Stearns Bank, N.A. v. Mullins, 333 Ga. App. 369, 776 S.E.2d 485 (2015) (setting aside a security deed, regardless of contempt of divorce decree); Robertson v. Robertson, 333 Ga. App. 864, 778 S.E.2d 6 (2015) (setting aside a transfer pursuant to a divorce).
85 Horn v. Shepherd, 292 Ga. 14, 732 S.E.2d 427 (2012); Morris v. Surges, 284 Ga. 748, 750, 670 S.E.2d 84, 86 (2008); Griffin v. Griffin, 243 Ga. 149, 253 S.E.2d 80 (1979).
86 Davis v. Davis, 287 Ga. 897, 700 S.E.2d 404 (2010).
87 Cain v. State, 277 Ga. 309, 588 S.E.2d 707 (2003).
88 Sanders v. State, 280 Ga. 780, 631 S.E.2d 344, 345 (2006).89Langlands v. State, 280 Ga. 799, 633 S.E.2d 537 (2006) (The trial court had granted a new trial as to the murder charges, but not the other charges).
§ 12:4.Selecting the proper court—Particular types of cases, Ga. Appellate Practice § 12:4

2016 STATE OF THE JUDICIARY ADDRESS THE HONORABLE CHIEF JUSTICE HUGH P. THOMPSON SUPREME COURT OF GEORGIA January 27, 2016, 11 a.m. House Chambers, State Capitol

016 STATE OF THE JUDICIARY ADDRESS
THE HONORABLE CHIEF JUSTICE HUGH P. THOMPSON
SUPREME COURT OF GEORGIA
January 27, 2016, 11 a.m.
House Chambers, State Capitol

Lt. Governor Cagle, Speaker Ralston, President Pro Tem Shafer, Speaker Pro Tem Jones, members of the General Assembly, my fellow judges and my fellow Georgians:
Good morning. Thank you for this annual tradition of inviting the Chief Justice to report on the State of Georgia’s Judiciary. Thanks in large part to your support and the support of our governor, as we move into 2016, I am pleased to tell you that your judicial branch of government is not only steady and secure, it is dynamic; it has momentum; and it is moving forward into the 21st century with a vitality and a commitment to meeting the inevitable changes before us.
Our mission remains the same: To protect individual rights and liberties, to uphold and interpret the rule of law, and to provide a forum for the peaceful resolution of disputes that is fair, impartial, and accessible to all.
Our judges are committed to these principles. Each day, throughout this state, they put on their black robes; they take their seat on the courtroom bench; and they work tirelessly to ensure that all citizens who come before them get justice.


Our Judicial Council is the policy-making body of the state’s judicial branch. It is made up of competent, committed leaders elected by their fellow judges and representing all classes of court. They are assisted by an Administrative Office of the Courts, which is under a new director – Cynthia Clanton – and has a renewed focus as an agency that serves judges and courts throughout Georgia.
A number of our judges have made the trip to be here today. Our judges are here today because the relationship we have with you is important. We share with you the same goal of serving the citizens of this great state. We could not do our work without your help and that of our governor.
On behalf of all of the judges, let me say we are extremely grateful to you members of the General Assembly for your judicial compensation appropriation last year.


Today I want to talk to you about Georgia’s 21st century courts – our vision for the future, the road we must travel to get there, and the accomplishments we have already achieved.
It has been said that, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
Since a new state Constitution took effect in 1983, our population has nearly doubled to a little over 10 million, making us the 8th most populous state in the country. We are among the fastest growing states in the nation, and in less than four years, our population is projected to exceed 12 million.
Because it is good for our economy, we welcome that growth. Today, Georgia ranks
among states with the highest number of Fortune 500 companies, 20 of which have their global headquarters here; we have 72 four-year colleges and universities; we have the world’s busiest airport and we have two deep-water ports. Georgia is a gateway to the South, and for a growing number of people and businesses from around the world, it is a gateway to this country.
All of this growth produces litigation – increasingly complex litigation – and just as our state must prepare for this growth by ensuring we have enough roads and modes of transportation, enough doctors and hospitals, and enough power to reach people throughout the state, our courts also must be equipped and modernized for the 21st
century.
While our population has nearly doubled since 1983, the number of Georgia judges has
grown only 16 percent. We must work together to ensure that our judicial system has enough judges, staff and resources in the 21st century to fulfill the mission and constitutional duties our forefathers assigned to us.
A healthy, vibrant judiciary is absolutely critical to the economic development of our state. Thanks to many leaders in the judiciary, as well as to our partnership with the governor and to you in the legislature, we are well on our way to building a court system for the 21st century.


This time next year, with your support, we will have put into place an historic shift in the types of cases handled by the Georgia Supreme Court – the highest court in the state – and by the Court of Appeals – our intermediate appellate court. Thanks to Governor Deal’s Georgia Appellate Jurisdiction Review Commission, this realignment will bring the Supreme Court of Georgia in line with other state Supreme Courts, which handle only the most critical cases that potentially change the law. Serving on the Commission are two of my colleagues – Justice David Nahmias and Justice Keith Blackwell – as well as two judges from the Court of Appeals – Chief
Judge Sara Doyle and Judge Stephen Dillard.
I thank you, Justices and Judges, for your leadership.
Under the Georgia Constitution, Supreme Court justices collectively decide every case that comes before us. Currently the state’s highest court hears divorce and alimony cases; we hear cases involving wills; we hear cases involving titles to land; and we hear disputes over boundary lines.
But the Governor’s Commission, and a number of reports by other commissions and
committees issued since 1983, have recommended that such cases should be heard by our intermediate appeals court, not by our highest court.
Both of our courts are among the busiest in the nation. But unlike the Supreme Court, which sits as a full court with all seven justices participating in, and deciding, every case, the Court of Appeals sits in panels of three. With your approval last year of three new Court of Appeals judges, that court will now have five panels, so it will have the capacity to consider five times as many cases as the Supreme Court.
Modernization of the Supreme Court makes sense. In a 19th century court system, when
most of the wealth was tied up in land, maybe title to land cases were the most important. Maybe they had the greatest implications for the public at large. But as we move into the 21st century, that is no longer true.
In answer to questions such as who owns a strip of land, what does a will mean, and who should prevail in a divorce settlement or an alimony dispute, most judicial systems believe that three judges are enough to provide the parties with a full and fair consideration of their appeal. It no longer makes sense to have seven – or nine – justices collectively review these types of cases.
There is no doubt these cases will be in good hands with the Court of Appeals.
Let me emphasize that all these cases the Commission recommended shifting to the Court of Appeals are critically important to the parties involved.
Let me also emphasize that the purpose of this historic change is not to lessen the burden on the Supreme Court. Rather, the intent is to free up the state’s highest court to devote more time and energy to the most complex and the most difficult cases that have the greatest implications for the law and society at large.
We will therefore retain jurisdiction of constitutional challenges to the laws you enact, questions from the federal courts seeking authoritative rulings on Georgia law, election contests, murder and death penalty cases, and cases in which the Court of Appeals judges are equally divided.
Significantly, we want to be able to accept more of what we call “certiorari” cases
which are appeals of decisions by the Court of Appeals. The number of petitions filed in this category during the first quarter of the new docket year is nearly 14 percent higher this year over last. Yet due to the amount of appeals the law now requires us to take, we have had to reject the majority of the petitions for certiorari that we receive.
These cases are often the most complex – and the most consequential. They involve
issues of great importance to the legal system and the State as a whole. Or they involve an area of law that has become inconsistent and needs clarification.
Businesses and citizens need to know what the law allows them to do and what it does
not allow them to do. It is our job at the highest court to reduce any uncertainty and bring consistency and clarity to the law.
Under the Commission’s recommendations, our 21st century Georgia Supreme Court will
be able to accept more of these important appeals.


As we move into the 21st century, plans are being discussed to build the first state Judicial Building in Georgia’s history that will be dedicated solely to the judiciary. We are grateful for the Governor’s leadership on this. The building that now houses the state’s highest court and the Court of Appeals was built in 1954 when Herman Tallmadge was governor. Back then, it made sense to combine the state judicial branch with part of the executive branch, by locating the Law Department in the same building.
But the world has changed since 1954, and the building we now occupy was not designed with visitors in mind. It was not designed with technology in mind. And it surely was not designed with security in mind. Indeed, it was designed to interconnect with neighboring buildings that housed other branches of government.
A proper Judicial Building is about more than bricks and mortar. Outside, this building will symbolize for generations to come the place where people will go to get final resolution of civil wrongs and injustices; where the government will go to safeguard its prosecution of criminals; and where defendants will go to appeal convictions and sentences to prison for life.
Inside such a building, the courtroom will reinforce the reality that what goes on here is serious and solemn; it is a place of great purpose, in the words of a federal judge. The parties and the lawyers will understand they are all on equal footing, because they are equal under the law.
There is a majesty about the law that gets played out in the courtroom. It is a hallowed place because it is where the truth must be told and where justice is born. The courtroom represents our democracy at its very best.
No, this building is not just about bricks and mortar. Rather it is a place that will house Georgia’s highest court where fairness, impartiality, and justice will reign for future generations.


We are no longer living in a 1950s Georgia. The courts of the 21st century must be
equipped to handle an increasingly diverse population. Living today in metropolitan Atlanta alone are more than 700,000 people who were born outside the United States. According to the Chamber of Commerce, today some 70 countries have a presence in Atlanta, in the form of a consulate or trade office. We must be ready to help resolve the disputes of international businesses that are increasingly locating in our state and capital. Our 21st century courts must be open, transparent and accessible to all. Our citizens’ confidence in their judicial system depends on it. We must be armed with qualified, certified interpreters, promote arbitration as an alternative to costly, courtroom-bound litigation, ensure that all those who cannot afford lawyers have an avenue toward justice, and be constantly updating technology with the aim of improving our courts’ efficiency while saving literally millions of dollars. For all of this, we need your help.


When I first became a judge, we had no email, no cell phones, no Internet. People didn’t Twitter or text, or post things on YouTube, Facebook or Instagram. The most modern equipment we had was a mimeograph machine.
This past year, by Supreme Court order, we created for the first time a governance
structure to bring our use of technology into the 21st century. Chaired by my colleague Justice Harold Melton, and co-chaired by Douglas County Superior Court Judge David Emerson, this permanent Judicial Council Standing Committee on Technology will lead the judicial branch by providing guidance and oversight of its technology initiatives.
Our courts on their own are rapidly moving away from paper documents into the digital age. At the Supreme Court, lawyers must now electronically file all cases. This past year, we successfully launched the next phase by working with trial courts to begin transmitting their entire court record to us electronically. The Court of Appeals also now requires the e-filing of applications to appeal, and this year, will join the Supreme Court in accepting electronic trial records.

Our goal is to develop a uniform statewide electronic filing and retrieval system so that lawyers and others throughout the judiciary can file and access data the easiest way possible.
Using a single portal, attorneys will be able to file documents with trial courts and appellate courts – and retrieve them from any court in the state. This is the system advocated by our partner, President Bob Kaufman of the State Bar of Georgia, and by attorneys throughout the state.
Such a system will not only make our courts more efficient at huge savings, but it will make Georgia safer. When our trial judges conduct bond hearings, for example, they often lack critical information about the person before them. They usually have reports about any former convictions, but they may not have information about cases pending against the defendant in other courts. The technology exists now to ensure that they do.
Also on the horizon is the expanded use of videoconferencing – another electronic
improvement that will save money and protect citizens’ lives. After a conviction and sentence to prison, post-trial hearings require courts to send security teams to pick up the prisoner and bring him to court. Without encroaching on the constitutional right of confrontation, we could videoconference the inmate’s testimony from his prison cell. Again, the technology already exists.
Our Committee on Technology will be at the forefront of guiding our courts into the 21st century.


As Georgia grows, it grows more diverse.
Our Georgia courts are required by the federal government to provide language services free of charge to litigants and witnesses, not only in criminal cases but in civil cases as well.
Even for fluent English speakers, the judicial system can be confusing and unwelcoming.
My vision for Georgia’s judiciary in the 21st century is that every court, in every city and every county in Georgia, will have the capacity of serving all litigants, speaking any language, regardless of national origin, from the moment they enter the courthouse until the moment they leave. That means that on court websites, signs and forms will be available in multiple languages, that all court staff will have the tools they need to assist any customers, and that court proceedings will have instant access to the interpreters of the languages they need.
Chief Magistrate Kristina Blum of the Gwinnett County Magistrate Court has been
working hard to ensure access to justice for all those who come to her court, most of whom are representing themselves.
Recently her court created brochures that provide guidance for civil trials, family
violence matters, warrant applications, garnishments, and landlord-tenant disputes. These brochures provide basic information about each proceeding – what to expect and how best to present their case in court.
Judge Blum, who is in line to be president of the Council of Magistrate Judges and is a member of our Judicial Council, has had the brochures translated into Spanish, Korean and Vietnamese. Such non-legalese forms and tutorial videos that our citizens can understand go a long way toward building trust in the judicial system, and in our entire government.
The Supreme Court Commission on Interpreters, chaired by Justice Keith Blackwell, is
making significant strides in ensuring that our courts uphold the standards of due process. With the help of Commission member Jana Edmondson-Cooper, an energetic attorney with the Georgia Legal Services Program, the Commission is working around the state to educate judges,court administrators and lawyers on the judiciary’s responsibilities in providing language assistance.
The essence of due process is the opportunity to be heard. Our justice system is the envy of other countries because it is open and fair to everyone seeking justice. By helping those who have not yet mastered English, we reinforce the message that the doors to the best justice system in the world are open to everyone.
Our law demands it. Our Constitution demands it.


The courts of the 21st century will symbolize a new era. A turning point in our history occurred when we realized there was a smarter way to handle criminals.
Six years ago, my colleague and then Chief Justice Carol Hunstein accompanied
Representative Wendell Willard to Alabama to explore how that state was reforming its criminal justice system. Back in Georgia, Governor Deal seized the reins, brought together the three branches of government, and through extraordinary leadership, has made criminal justice reform a reality. Georgia is now a model for the nation.
Today, following an explosive growth in our prison population that doubled between
1990 and 2011 and caused corrections costs to top one billion dollars a year, last year our prison population was the lowest it has been in 10 years. Our recidivism rate is the lowest it’s been in three decades. And we have turned back the tide of rising costs.
For the last five years, the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform – created by the governor and your legislation – has been busy transforming our criminal justice system into one that does a better job of protecting public safety while holding non-violent offenders accountable and saving millions in taxpayer dollars. I am extremely grateful to this Council and commend the steady leadership of co-chairs Judge Michael Boggs of the Court of Appeals and Thomas Worthy of the State Bar of Georgia.
Throughout this historic reform, Georgia’s trial court judges have been in the trenches.
Our number one goal in criminal justice reform is to better protect the safety of our citizens.
Central to that goal is the development of our specialty courts – what some call accountability courts.
These courts have a proven track record of reducing recidivism rates and keeping our
citizens safe. Nationwide, 75 percent of drug court graduates remain free of arrest two years after completing the program, and the most conservative analyses show that drug courts reduce crime as much as 45 percent more than other sentencing options. Last year, these courts helped save Georgia more than $51 million in prison costs.
From the beginning, you in the legislature have steadfastly supported the growth in these courts, most recently appropriating more than $19 million for the current fiscal year.
Georgia now has 131 of these courts, which include drug courts, DUI courts, juvenile and adult mental health courts, and veterans courts. Today, only two judicial circuits in the state do not yet have a specialty court, and both are in the early stages of discussing the possibility of starting one. In addition to those already involved, last year alone, we added nearly 3500 new participants to these courts.
Behind that number are individual tales of lives changed and in some cases, lives saved.
Our judges, who see so much failure, take pride in these success stories. And so should you.

Chief Judge Richard Slaby of the Richmond County State Court, speaks with great pride of Judge David Watkins and the specialty courts that have grown under Judge Watkins’ direction. Today the recidivism rate among the Augusta participants is less than 10 percent.
The judges who run these courts are committed and deserve our thanks. We are grateful to leaders like Judge Slaby, who is President-Elect of the Council of State Court Judges and a member of our Judicial Council; to Judge Stephen Goss of the Dougherty Superior Court, whose mental health court has been recognized as one of the best mental health courts in our country; to Chief Judge Brenda Weaver, President of the Council of Superior Court Judges and a member of our Judicial Council. Judge Weaver of the Appalachian Judicial Circuit serves on the Council of
Accountability Court Judges of Georgia, which you created last year by statute. Its purpose is to improve the quality of our specialty courts through proven standards and practices, and it is chaired by Superior Court Judge Jason Deal of Hall County. Judge Deal’s dedication to the specialty court model in his community, and his guidance and encouragement to programs throughout the state, are described as invaluable by those who work with him.


We may not have a unified court system in Georgia. But we have judges unified in their commitment to our courts. Among our one thousand four hundred and fifty judges, Georgia has many fine leaders. I’ve told you about a number of them today. In closing, I want to mention two more.
When the United States Supreme Court issued its historic decision last year on same-sex marriage, our Council of Probate Court Judges led the way toward compliance. Three months before the ruling was issued, the judges met privately at the behest of the Council’s then president, Judge Chase Daughtrey of Cook County, and his successor, Judge Don Wilkes of Emanuel County. Together, they determined that regardless of what the Supreme Court decided, they would follow the law. Both Governor Deal and Attorney General Sam Olens also publicly announced they would respect the court’s decision, despite tremendous pressure to do otherwise.
These men are all great leaders who spared our state the turmoil other states endured. The bottom line is this: In Georgia, we may like the law, we may not like the law, but we follow the law.


The day-to-day business of the Georgia courts rarely makes the news. Rather judges,
their staff and clerks spend their days devoted to understanding the law, tediously pushing cases through to resolution, committed to ferreting out the truth and making the right decision. It is not easy, and they must often stand alone, knowing that when they sentence someone to prison, many lives hang in the balance between justice and mercy.
So I thank all of our leaders, and I thank all of our judges who are leading our courts into the 21st century.
May God bless them. May God bless you. And may God bless all the people of Georgia.
Thank you.

“Four judicial appointments are being denied Gov. Nathan Deal”. “over a period of decades, it has become customary throughout Georgia for a judge to resign mid-way through the final elected term, which allows the governor to install an incumbent of his choice in time for the next nonpartisan election. Which usually discourages all challengers. Bestowing these prizes has become one of the great perks of the governor’s office.”


(Judge Irma Glover speaks to the audience during a criminal arraignment at Cobb County State Court in Marietta in 2013. Her retirement was announced on Tuesday. Hyosub Shin, hshin@ajc.com)
Greg Bluestein
@bluestein
Daniel Malloy
@ajconwashington
Jim Galloway
@politicalinsidr
Cobb County judges deny Gov. Nathan Deal four bench appointments

Cobb County judges deny Gov. Nathan Deal four bench appointments
January 6, 2016 | Filed in: Cobb County, Elections – President, Georgia Legislature, Jimmy Carter, John Lewis, Nathan Deal.

Judge Irma Glover speaks to the audience during a criminal arraignment at Cobb County State Court in Marietta in 2013. Her retirement was announced on Tuesday. Hyosub Shin, hshin@ajc.com

Judge Irma Glover speaks to the audience during a criminal arraignment at Cobb County State Court in Marietta in 2013. Her retirement was announced on Tuesday. Hyosub Shin, hshin@ajc.com

We told you earlier this morning that Allison Barnes Salter, daughter of former Gov. Roy Barnes and a managing partner in the Barnes Law Group, will run for an open seat on the Cobb County State Court bench.

But that is only part of the story.

(Allison Salter Barnes, who announced her candidacy for a state court judgeship on Tuesday).

Allison Salter Barnes, who announced her candidacy for a state court judgeship on Tuesday.

A total of four judges in Cobb County – all women, one on the superior court bench and three on the state court bench – have announced that they will not be running for re-election when their terms expire this year.

Which means that four judicial appointments are being denied Gov. Nathan Deal.

This is actually how the system is supposed to work. But over a period of decades, it has become customary throughout Georgia for a judge to resign mid-way through the final elected term, which allows the governor to install an incumbent of his choice in time for the next nonpartisan election. Which usually discourages all challengers. Bestowing these prizes has become one of the great perks of the governor’s office.

One can’t rule out the possibility that these departing judges hold a fervent belief in the power of voters. Superior Court Judge Adele Grubbs, who is retiring at age 72, won her seat on the bench in a 2000 election. State Court Judge Melanie Clayton first won her seat in an open-field election in 1992.

But we also may be seeing something of a Democratic hangover here. Kathryn Tanksley, another departing state court judge, was appointed as one of the last acts of Governor Barnes before he left office in 2002. And State Court Judge Irma Glover, whose retirement was announced Tuesday in the Daily Report, was a 1995 appointee of Gov. Zell Miller.

Daily Report and Andrew Phillips: Analyzing the Suit Over Georgia Voters’ Personal Data Leak

Analyzing the Suit Over Georgia Voters’ Personal Data Leak
Andrew Phillips, Daily Report
November 20, 2015
http://www.dailyreportonline.com/id=1202743008663/Analyzing-the-Suit-Over-Georgia-Voters-Personal-Data-Leak?mcode=0&curindex=0&curpage=ALL


Andrew Phillips
Andrew Phillips is senior counsel in McGuireWoods’ Atlanta office, where he is editor of the firm’s “Password Protected” blog, in which a version of this article first appeared. His practice focuses on representing and counseling clients in a variety of class action and high stakes civil litigation.

John Disney/Daily Report

Did the Georgia secretary of state release the Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, and dates of birth of every registered Georgia voter? Those are the allegations first made by putative class representatives Elise Piper and Yvette Sanders in a recently filed Fulton County Superior Court lawsuit and confirmed by recent statements by the secretary of state.

The office of Secretary of State Brian Kemp attributes the data leak to a “clerical error,” which it alleges involved the dissemination of CD-ROMs containing extraneous data to only 12 recipients and that the disks are in the process of being recovered.

Piper and Sanders also allege that, despite being on notice of the leak, the state failed to notify the affected voters, or credit reporting agencies, in violation of the Georgia Personal Identity Protection Act of 2007 (GPIPA).

As troubling as the release of this information may be to voters—who may be dubious that the leak has been contained and are concerned about the risk of identity theft or fraud—it is unclear what, if any, legal remedy is available to plaintiffs.

The Data Leak
Per the complaint, the Social Security and driver’s license numbers were collected as part of the voter registration process. However, the suit alleges that although the voter registration process only required the last four digits of each voter’s Social Security number, the Secretary of State’s Office nonetheless maintained “each voter’s complete Social Security and driver’s license number.”

Some voter identification information, such as names and addresses—but not Social Security and driver’s license numbers—is regularly maintained in a “voter file” which is routinely provided on CD-ROM to media members and political parties free of charge. The voter file is also available to the general public for a $500 fee. However, plaintiffs allege, when the October 2015 voter file was distributed, it not only contained standard voter identification information but also the Social Security number, driver’s license number, and date of birth for all 6,184,281 registered Georgia voters.

The Georgia Personal Identity Protection Act
Legally, the type of data released is a distinction with a difference. GPIPA—like many similar state data breach notification statutes—defines “personal information,” in relevant part, as “an individual’s first name or first initial and last name in combination with any one or more of the following data elements,” including a Social Security number or driver’s license number. Thus, while the dissemination of the standard voter file containing voters’ names and addresses alone likely did not constitute a release of protected personal information, the alleged release of that information in conjunction with Social Security and driver’s license numbers could be deemed a breach.
Of course, even if the information was—as it appears to be—”personal information,” that is not the end of the inquiry. Other key questions include whether the Georgia Secretary of State is an “information broker or data collector” subject to the act, whether the release of the information was a “breach of the security of the system” within the meaning of the act, and whether the state failed to comply with the notice requirements of GPIPA.

Based on what we know, it would appear the answers to the first two questions are yes. GPIPA defines a data collector to include state agencies and actors as long as they are not maintaining records “primarily for traffic safety, law enforcement or licensing purposes or for purposes of providing public access to court records or to real or personal property information.” Assuming the Office of the Secretary of State cannot meet any of these exceptions—as seems likely—it is a “data collector.”

Likewise, the act defines “breach of the security of the system” to mean “unauthorized acquisition of an individual’s electronic data that compromises the security, confidentiality or integrity of personal information.” Again, based on the available information, this definition would appear to have been met by the dissemination of the personal information to media and political parties.

That said, the secretary of state may argue that the release of the information to a mere dozen people, followed by prompt efforts to recover the disks and contain the leak, did not jeopardize “the security, confidentiality, or integrity of personal information.” Of course, the fact that plaintiffs’ counsel apparently ended up with one of the disks undermines these arguments.

Turning to the next question, if GPIPA applies and the release was a breach, what was the Office of the Secretary of State required to do?
Under GPIPA, any information broker or data collector “shall give notice of any breach of the security of the system following discovery or notification of the breach” to Georgia residents whose unencrypted personal information was “acquired by an unauthorized person.”
With regard to timing, the notice shall be made “in the most expedient time possible and without unreasonable delay, consistent with the legitimate needs of law enforcement.” Law enforcement may delay notification if “a law enforcement agency determines that the notification will compromise a criminal investigation.”

Finally, where, as here, a breach requires notification to more than 10,000 residents, the data collector must also inform “all consumer reporting agencies.” Per the complaint, the secretary of state’s office did not provide notice to affected voters or consumer reporting agencies in the approximately one-month since the release, which could constitute a lack of notice.

On the other hand, perhaps the state can argue that the length of time that has passed since the potential breach without notification was not an “unreasonable delay” in light of the facts surrounding the release.

As for the type of notice required, the act typically requires written, telephonic, or, with prior permission, electronic notice. However, where the cost of the notice, as here, would exceed $50,000 or the breach affected more than 100,000 individuals, “substitute notice” may be appropriate. This can include notice by email (when known), conspicuous notice on the entity’s website, and notification via statewide media.
Thus, in this case, the statute could likely be satisfied with a press release and conspicuous notification on the Secretary of State web page—an embarrassment, perhaps, but not a huge logistical hurdle.

Do Plaintiffs Have a Case?
Despite the possibility that the secretary of state’s office may have violated GPIPA, plaintiffs’ remedy, if any, is unclear. Notably, plaintiffs have not sued for damages—likely because GPIPA does not expressly allow damages, and, regardless, seeking damages would likely trigger a sovereign immunity fight. Rather, the suit seeks equitable relief requiring the secretary of state to comply with GPIPA’s notification requirements and “prevent future harm due to the disclosure,” and attorneys’ fees.

While it is difficult to imagine that GPIPA was enacted without any enforcement mechanism or remedy—unlike many other states’ data privacy laws—GPIPA does not expressly create an independent civil cause of action, contain any statutory remedies or provide for an award of attorneys’ fees.

Moreover, while the only two published cases that have examined the act have not foreclosed a private right of action, neither has expressly found one, either. In the first, Willingham v. Global Payments, the Northern District of Georgia held the act inapplicable because the plaintiffs in that case were not residents of Georgia.
More recently, in an opinion arising out of the In re Target data breach litigation, the court allowed plaintiffs’ GPIPA claim to survive a motion to dismiss because “Georgia’s data-breach-notice statute is silent as to enforcement” and “neither party cites any case regarding how a court should interpret silence as to enforcement under Georgia law.”

The plaintiffs’ chance of success is unclear based on the paucity of case law examining GPIPA—and the fact that no court has affirmatively found a private cause of action.

Lessons for Government and Industry
Although the merits of plaintiffs’ suit are an open question—both because the secretary of state may have a viable defense and because GPIPA may be relatively toothless—it still carries important lessons for businesses and others collecting and processing personal information.

First, the Secretary of State Office’s “clerical error” illustrates the risk of collecting more data than needed. If only the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers were necessary, then the retention of complete Social Security and driver’s license numbers appears to have been an unnecessary risk that, in this case, led to a substantial data leak and litigation.

Second, those collecting and processing personal information should know—and comply with—data breach notification laws. For larger companies, this likely means compliance with various states’ disclosure laws—many of which have much clearer penalties and enforcement mechanisms than GPIPA.

Finally—and perhaps most fundamentally—data collectors and custodians should have a robust information management program in place that is commensurate with the volume and sensitivity of the data at issue. Simply put, a data management system with sufficient checks and safeguards should prevent a “clerical error” from potentially putting millions at risk.

Andrew Phillips is senior counsel in McGuireWoods’ Atlanta office, where he is editor of the firm’s “Password Protected” blog, in which a version of this article first appeared. His practice focuses on representing and counseling clients in a variety of class action and high stakes civil litigation.

Read more: http://www.dailyreportonline.com/id=1202743008663/Analyzing-the-Suit-Over-Georgia-Voters-Personal-Data-Leak#ixzz3sCITf37b

Georgia to Write Its History Out Through Passing a Bill? What the Hell About Our Heritage?


(Confederate Memorial Day photo CHRIS HUNT)
Confederate holidays booted from state calendar
Posted: 5:29 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015
By Greg Bluestein and Shannon McCaffrey – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
http://www.myajc.com/news/news/confederate-holidays-booted-from-state-calendar/nnFFF/

Confederate Memorial Day has been struck from Georgia’s official 2016 state holiday calendar. So has Robert E. Lee’s birthday.

Both have quietly been replaced with the more neutral term “state holiday.”

The last Monday in April is designated Confederate Memorial Day in Georgia, which is an official state holiday and state offices … Read More
The change was reflected in emails from Gov. Nathan Deal that landed in state employees’ inboxes this week.

The 2015 state calendar clearly listed April 27 as the Confederate holiday and Nov. 27 as Lee’s birthday (he was actually born in January).

Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said the state still intends to celebrate the days even if it doesn’t “spell it out by name.”

“There will be a state holiday on that day,” he said. “Those so inclined can observe Confederate Memorial Day and remember those who died in that conflict.”

But some took a deeper meaning from the notable omission.

Tim Pilgrim, a leader of the Georgia division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said he was concerned about the shift.

“We don’t want Georgia to turn its back on history,” he said. “They can’t erase and remove our history. That’s unacceptable for us.”

State Sen. Vincent Fort, who is drafting a bill that would remove Confederate Memorial Day from the list of sanctioned state holidays, said the governor’s “inartful dodge” won’t change his plans.

“With a wink and nod they are saying ‘we are removing the name but you know it’s a day that we celebrate people who supported treason and slavery,’ ” the Democrat from Atlanta said. “I’m not mollified.”

Throughout the South, the use of Confederate symbols and holidays has come under increased scrutiny since the massacre in June of nine black worshippers at a Charleston, S.C., church. Charged in the killings was a man suspected to be a white supremacist. South Carolina legislators swiftly voted to remove the Confederate battle emblem from state Capitol grounds after the shooting.

The Confederate battle emblem is already gone from Georgia’s own flag, but there has been some controversy over whether the state should continue to produce a vanity license plate that displays the symbol. In a sign of the popularity the symbol still enjoys, hundreds of Confederate battle flag supporters descended on Stone Mountain on Saturday to celebrate what they say is an important symbol of their heritage.

Deal has remained mostly silent on the controversies, and the change on Thursday was made without any announcement or fanfare.

It echoed the way the Republican governor had the statue of Tom Watson booted from the state Capitol’s grounds in 2013. Critics had long called for the removal of the bronze likeness of the one-time populist turned white supremacist who vilified blacks, Catholics and Jews. Deal said it was being removed for safety reasons because the steps near the statue were in disrepair. Watson was removed unceremoniously during a state holiday when few were around to see.

Georgia NAACP President Richard Rose called Thursday’s calendar change “grudging progress.”

“There is absolutely no reason we should be celebrating Confederate Memorial Day,” Rose said. “There is is no Confederate States of America, and there hasn’t been for 150 years.”

Ebola Flights

Continual Flying of Ebola Into the United States! CDC admitted to Fox News that they are hiding the numbers of effected in US from citizens, to prevent panic!

Sunday December 21, 2014
N163PA has just filed a flight plan. It is scheduled to depart from Joint Base Andrews (KADW) at 10:45PM EST Sunday heading for Cartersville (KVPC) for an estimated arrival at 12:16AM EST.
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Thursday December 18, 2014:

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N163PA (GLF3) has just filed a flight plan. It is scheduled to depart from Cartersville (KVPC) at 01:30PM EST Thursday heading for Bermuda Int’l (TXKF/BDA) for an estimated arrival at 04:44PM AST.
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