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Released Opinions

November 8, 2010

This morning, the Supreme Court of Georgia released opinions in 20 cases, two of which are civil.  A brief summary of each case is below, along with a summary of the opinion by the Supreme Court.

S10G0448. NUCI PHILLIPS MEMORIAL FOUNDATION, INC. v. ATHENS-CLARKE COUNTY BOARD of TAX ASSESSORS

This case involves the proper application of an ad valorem tax exemption for a public charity.  The trial court granted the exemption to the Nuci Phillips Memorial Foundation.

The Court of Appeals (Smith, Phipps, and Bernes) unanimously reversed the trial court, finding that although the institution was a public charity, it used its building for other purposes than just its charitable purposes.  Under the language of OCGA Section 48-5-41(d)(2), the Court of Appeals held that the foundation rented its space for birthday parties and wedding receptions, and thus was not exclusively devoted to a charitable purpose.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari in a 6-1 vote (Carley dissenting) to consider the following question:

  1. Whether the Court of Appeals erred in applying OCGA Section 48-5-41 (d) (2)? Compare Ga. Laws 2006 at 376 and Ga. Laws 2007 at 341.

The Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case on June 8, 2010.

On November 8, 2010, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals in a 4-3 decision (Hunstein, Benham, and Hines dissenting).  There was no majority opinion because Justice Nahmias concurred in the judgment only.  Writing for the plurality, Presiding Justice Carley found that the 2007 amendment did not result in a change in the law, but rather only a clarification.  The plurality then reviewed the purposes and found the rehearsal and party space usage was incidental, so the charitable purpose of the building was met.  The dissent found the 2007 amendment altered the statute and would have upheld the Court of Appeals decision.

S10A1267. JOINER et al. v. GLENN

This case originated from the firing of the City of Jefferson Police Chief, Darren Glenn.  After being terminated, Glenn was investigated and indicted by a grand jury in 2007 on various charges, but the grand jury reversed its indictment a few months later.  Glenn later brought this action against the mayor of Jefferson and other city officials for wrongful termination, mental anguish, and loss of reputation.  A copy of the Complaint is posted on our site.

After interlocutory rulings by the Superior Court, Glenn’s attorney, former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers applied for interlocutory review of the Superior Court’s decisions.

The Supreme Court unanimously granted the Application for Interlocutory Appeal on February 11, 2010, and requested the parties address the following issues in their briefs:

  1. Whether the trial court erred in ruling that, in a procedural due process claim involving the denial of a liberty interest, the presence of an adequate procedural remedy to cure the alleged procedural deprivation does not defeat the plaintiff’s claim. See Camden County v. Haddock, 271 Ga. 664, 665 (523 SE2d 291) (1999); Cotton v. Jackson, 216 F3d 1328, 1330-1333 (11th Cir. 2000).
  2. Whether, if the trial court did err in this ruling, the writ of mandamus constitutes an adequate procedural remedy in this case.
  3. Whether the trial court correctly interpreted the claims raised under OCGA § 36-33-4 in light of Art. I, Sec. II, Par. IX (d) of the 1983 Georgia Constitution, as amended. Oglethorpe Development Group v. Coleman, 271 Ga. 173, 173-174 (516 SE2d 531) (1999).

The Supreme Court heard oral argument on July 6, 2010.

On November 8, 2010, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court in a 4-3 decision (Hunstein, Carley, and Melton dissenting).  Writing for the majority, Justice Thompson found that the writ of mandamus is the proper procedural remedy for the failure to hold a name-clearing hearing.  As a result, the majority found the superior court erred in denying the motion for judgment on the pleadings.  The dissent would have found that no “adequate state remedy” doctrine applied and that the superior court properly denied the motion for judgment on the pleadings.

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