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New Grants of Petitions for Certiorari in Civil Cases

March 14, 2012

The Supreme Court of Georgia has granted two new petitions for certiorari in civil cases since the beginning of March. Brief summaries of the facts and issues are below.

S11G1792. LEITCH et al. v. FLEMING

In this case, the District Attorney for the Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit sued the judges of the Magistrate Court of DeKalb County, seeking a ruling regarding the proper evidentiary standard before the magistrate court. In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in this case that the mandamus approach originally taken by the DA was improper, but that a declaratory judgment action would be proper. Upon remand, the DA amended her petition to assert a declaratory judgment claim now at issue–that the DA faced uncertainty as to her ability to rely on hearsay evidence alone to establish probable cause to have a case bound over to the proper court.  The trial court granted the DA’s motion for summary judgment and the magistrate court appeals.

The Court of Appeals (Miller, Ellington, Doyle) unanimously affirmed in part and reversed in part, finding that trial court could find the declaratory judgment action was brought properly and that hearsay evidence must be admitted as legal evidence at preliminary hearings. The Court of Appeals reversed the portion of the trial court’s order related to the enforcement of a complaint to the Judicial Qualifications Commission, finding that ruling was merely advisory.

On March 5, 2012, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in a 4-3 decision (Carley, Hines, Melton dissenting) to consider the following question:

  1. Whether the Court of Appeals erred in determining that declaratory judgment is an appropriate remedy in this case.

The case has been assigned to the June 2012 oral argument calendar.

S11G1828. WMW, INC., d/b/a HONDA CARLAND v. AMERICAN HONDA MOTOR COMPANY, INC., et al.

This case began when Honda decided to place a new sales and service dealership in Cumming, Georgia. WMW operated a Honda dealership and service center since 1976. The dealership is located in Roswell and the service center is located in Alpharetta. When Honda notified WMW that it planned to open a new facility in Cumming, WMW sued Honda and the proposed franchisee under the Georgia Motor Vehicle Franchise Practices Act. The trial court concluded WMW lacked standing to challenge a new dealership and dismissed the case. WMW appealed.

The Court of Appeals affirmed in a 5-2 decision (Smith, Barnes, Andrews, Mikell and Dillard voting to affirm; McFadden and Adams dissenting). The majority determined that although WMW was a dealer under the statute, the eight-mile radius was determined from the location of the corporation. The service center in Alpharetta was not a dealership for purposes of the statute and thus the trial court ruled correctly that WMW lacked standing. Writing in dissent, Judge McFadden would have found that, because a corporation can occupy more than one place at a time, the definition of “dealership” includes all assets of the dealership, wherever located.

On March 5, 2012, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in a 5-2 decision (Thompson and Hines dissenting) to consider the following question:

  1. Did the Court of Appeals err in finding that a corporation owning an automobile dealership with multiple locations lacks standing to challenge the establishment of a new dealership unless it is to be located within the “relevant market area” surrounding the corporation’s principal place of business, see OCGA §§ 10-1-622 (1), and 664 (b)?

The case has been assigned to the June 2012 oral argument calendar.

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