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Forthcoming Opinions

May 14, 2010

On Monday, May 17, 2010 at 8:30 am, the Supreme Court of Georgia will release opinions in 23 cases, three of which are civil.  A brief summary of each case is below, and we will update on Monday morning with summaries of the released opinions.

S09G2004. HOUSTON COUNTY v. HARRELL

This is a civil rights claim brought by Harrell against Houston County. After receiving a traffic citation, Harrell promptly paid the fine. Because she had to leave the courthouse briefly to get money from an ATM, the county required her to sign paperwork with a private probation company that handled the misdemeanor probation services for the county. Harrell paid the fine a few minutes later after getting money from the ATM. The private company had no record that Harrell had paid, and later sought a warrant for her arrest. Harrell was arrested and spent several days in jail before being released. Harrell sued, alleging a violation of her constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The trial court granted summary judgment to the county.

The Court of Appeals (Phipps, Smith, and Bernes) unanimously reversed the trial court, finding that questions of fact remained about Harrell’s claims regarding the arrest warrant process. Because Harrell presented evidence that no oath was required by anyone employed by the private company before the judge issued arrest warrants, the Court of Appeals determined the record supports the conclusion that the warrant issue for Harrell’s arrest was invalid under the constitution.

The Supreme Court unanimously granted certiorari to review this procedural question:

  1. Did the Court of Appeals err in exercising jurisdiction over the appeal from a grant of summary judgment apparently based upon certification under OCGA § 9-11-54 (b), even though the machinery of immediate appellate review under OCGA § 9-11-56 (h) had previously been put into motion? See Mitchell v. Oliver, 254 Ga. 112, 114 (1) (1985).

Attorneys for the county argue that the Court of Appeals had no jurisdiction over Harrell’s appeal because she failed to file her initial Notice of appeal within 30 days of the grant of summary judgment, instead attempting immediate appellate review.  Harrell’s attorneys argue the Court of Appeals had jurisdiction, apparently based on the county failing to raise res judicataissues at an earlier stage in the process.

The case was placed in the January 2010 term of the Court when it granted certiorari on November 2, 2009 and was argued on February 9, 2010 by the Supreme Court.

S10A0102. WINDSOR et al. v. CITY of ATLANTA

This case is an appeal involving a condemnation action that the homeowner was attempting to overturn.  The case originated in DeKalb County Superior Court on July 18, 2003 and the case was dismissed on June 8, 2009 by the Superior Court judge.

S10A0131. HOOD v. TODD

This appeal involves whether a daughter born out of wedlock is entitled to a share of the inheritance of a man who died in 2006. Buffington named two living children in his will, but Todd claimed she was also his child based on statements Buffington made in a 1994 deposition. The executors filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming the fact that Buffington didn’t mention Todd reflected his intent to exclude her from the will.

The probate court ruled that a hearing should be held on the issue, and the executors appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the will was clearly limited to individual grants, not a class grant to all of Buffington’s children.

The case was argued before the Supreme Court on January 12, 2010.

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