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Released Opinions

May 7, 2012

The Supreme Court released opinions in 16 cases this morning, two of which are civil within the scope of our coverage. Brief summaries are below and we will update on Monday morning with summaries of the opinions.  The Court is also holding argument today, which you can watch live on its website.

S11G1772. Jordan v. Moses

This case originated with the dissolution of a law partnership in Brunswick. Moses and Jordan practiced together for several years prior to forming a partnership at the start of 2003. At an August 16, 2006 meeting, Jordan informed Moses he was considering dissolving the partnership, and Moses offered to serve in an “of counsel” role from her home. On a Sunday about ten days later, Jordan left a letter on Moses’ office chair purporting to dissolve the partnership effective August 31. Jordan then left town. Moses sent an email the next day stating she did not agree to dissolve the partnership. Moses’ attorney discussed the issue with Jordan, and Moses believed the firm would continue in existence. In early October, however, Jordan informed the firm’s railroad clients that the firm was dissolved, and sent out a letter in December announcing formation of The Jordan Firm.

At the beginning of 2007, Jordan filed suit asking for a declaration that the law partnership was dissolved on September 26, 2006 and that Moses was owed no further funds. Moses counterclaimed for breach of the partnership agreement, wrongful dissolution, and breach of fiduciary duty, among other claims. Jordan moved for summary judgment on the counterclaim for wrongful dissolution and the trial court granted it, in addition to granting Jordan a protective order related to discovery and ordering Moses to turn over a hard drive in her possession.

The Court of Appeals (Smith, Dillard, McFadden) unanimously reversed the trial court decision, finding that Moses presented at least one genuine issue of fact regarding her wrongful dissolution claim, preventing the trial court from granting summary judgment. In addition, the panel found there was a dispute of facts regarding the date of dissolution of the partnership and that the trial court should not have entered a blank protective order based on the number of requests.

On November 7, 2011, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in a 4-3 vote (Hunstein, Thompson, and Melton, dissenting) to consider the following issue:

  1. Whether the Court of Appeals applied the proper legal analysis in reversing the grant of summary judgment on the wrongful dissolution claim?

The case was heard at oral argument on February 7, 2012.

On Monday, May 7, 2012, the Supreme Court unanimously reversed the Court of Appeals (Thompson, not participating; Nahmias and Carley, concurring). Writing for the Court, Justice Hines explained that the claim of wrongful dissolution involves the attempt to appropriate the assets of a business, which may include prospective business, without appropriate compensation. The Court of Appeals incorrectly cited precedent regarding the “new prosperity” of the partnership, and the tort of wrongful dissolution does not require the attempt to appropriate the “new prosperity” of the partnership. The case was remanded to the Court of Appeals to address the evidence of a $180,000 fee in light of the Court’s decision.

S12A0140 Cook v. Board of Registrars of Randolph County

This case is an appeal of a ruling regarding the residency of a Randolph County Board of Education member. Henry Cook had been the target of a local law seeking his removal from office that the Supreme Court found unconstitutional in 2010. The Randolph County Board of Registrars concluded that Cook was no longer a resident of Randolph County because he purchased a house in Dothan, Alabama after his house burned down and a sister with whom he was living died. Following a trial, the trial court concluded Cook was not a resident of Randolph County.

Cook petitioned for the Supreme Court to review whether the Board of Registrars was authorized to remove him from the list of eligible voters.

The case was heard by the Supreme Court on January 9, 2012.

On Monday, May 7, 2012, the Supreme Court unanimously transferred the case to the Court of Appeals.  Writing for the Court, Justice Nahmias explained that the Court’s jurisdiction over “cases of election contest” does not extend to cases involving the whether an individual is an elector in a county. When the Court first granted the application for a discretionary appeal, it asked the parties to address the jurisdictional issues. The opinion then lays out a detailed explanation of the Court’s jurisdiction over election contests, which had never been previously addressed, and which does not include challenges to the qualifications of a voter unless it is related specifically to whether an election was contested.

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