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Next Week at the Court

November 3, 2011

Starting on Monday, the Supreme Court of Georgia will hold two days of oral argument in Atlanta before moving to Darien on November 14. Two civil cases within the scope of our coverage are being argued, and brief summaries of the issues are below.

Monday, November 7, 2011 10:00 am Sitting

S11A1960. Final Exit Network, Inc., et al. v. The State

This case began when a Forsyth County grand jury charged four individuals and the Final Exit Network of violating a number of state laws centering around violations of O.C.G.A. § 16-5-5, which prohibits offering to assist in a suicide. The defendants allegedly assisted in the suicide of John Celmer at his request by helping him breathe helium and then disposing of evidence.

Defendants sought to dismiss the indictment by alleging the statute is unconstitutional. The trial court denied the motion in an extensive order on April 19, 2011 and granted the defendants a certificate of immediate review on April 27, 2011.

Defendants applied for interlocutory review by the Supreme Court, alleging that the statute only prohibits advertising or assisting in a suicide, not assisting in a suicide itself. For that reason, defendants argue the statute is a “content-based restriction on the free speech rights of Georgia citizens,” in addition to being unconstitutionally vague.

On June 14, 2011, the Supreme Court granted unanimously granted the petition (Nahmias not participating) to consider the following issue:

  1. Did the trial court err in ruling that OCGA § 16-5-5 (b) is constitutional?

The Final Exit Network argues that the statute does not generally prohibit suicide, but rather focuses on speech – those who “publicly” advertise or hold themselves out as assisting with suicide. The State responds that the statute does not prohibit freedom of speech at all, but rather focuses on actors who assist in suicide.

The Court will hear oral argument on the case on November 7, 2011.

S11A1435 Robbins et al., d/b/a Supermarket Speciality Products v. Supermarket Equipment Sales,LLC., et al.S11A1583 Smith v. Supermarket Equipment Sales, LLC

This case involves the appeal of an injunction related to mechanical drawings in a case involving the metal coverings for commercial refrigerators. Supermarket Equipment Sales, LLC purchased some of the equipment from Supermarket Equipment Resale, Inc., which closed in 2009. Several former employees of SER created TCD Squared, which also dealt with coverings for refrigerators. SES sued TCD, alleging that the former employees took 1,500 mechanical drawings from SES and used those proprietary information and trade secrets and used them to compete against SES. The trial court issued a temporary injunction prohibiting TCD from using the 1,500 drawings, even though it concluded that the drawings were not trade secrets, and the defendants appealed to the Supreme Court.

TCD and its employees argue that SES lacked standing and the injunction was not appropriate because no trade secrets were taken from SES. SES responded by arguing that the company has standing and the injunction was appropriate to protect the proprietary information.

The Court will hear oral argument on November 7, 2011.

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