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Released Opinions

March 25, 2013

This morning, the Supreme Court of Georgia released opinions in nine cases, two of which are within the scope of our coverage. Summaries of the cases and opinions are below. The next scheduled date for oral argument is one week from today, on April 1, 2013.

S12A1643 Ferguson v. PerryS12X1644 Perry v. FergusonS12A1645 Ferguson v. Perry

This case is an appeal of a mandamus action that seeks to force a probate court judge to grant a gun license to a convicted felon. Perry was convicted of a felony violation of federal internal revenue liquor laws in 1971. In 1978, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms granted Perry’s application for relief from federal firearm disabilities, and in 1979, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles restored his civil and political rights. In 2009, Perry applied for a concealed carry license in Georgia and the probate judge denied the application because Perry had not received a pardon for his earlier conviction. Perry then filed a mandamus action to require issuance of the license. The superior court found Perry was eligible and issued the writ requiring the license be issued to him, but found that the denial of the application  was not a violation of his constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Both sides appealed. The probate judge argues that she is not required to issue the license to a convicted felon who does not have a pardon. Perry argues that the trial court should not have reached the constitutional question.

The case was heard on January 7, 2013.

On March 25, 2013, the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the ruling that Perry was entitled to a concealed carry license and vacated the constitutional rulings of the trial court. Writing for the Court, Justice Nahmias explained that a decision from the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles removed the disabilities of the state’s firearms laws in Perry’s situation. The Court further found that the inartful wording of the Board’s order did not prevent it from removing Perry’s legal disabilities and that possessing firearms is a “civil right.” The Court also determined that the trial court should not have reached the constitutional issues once it determined Perry was entitled to a weapons license under the statute.

S12A1920 Mesteller v. Gwinnett County et al.

This case involves a county ordinance to collect a fee for providing solid waste collection services. In 2010, Gwinnett County adopted a solid waste ordinance that provided for hiring private companies paid through a fee on residents’ ad valorem tax bills. A Gwinnett taxpayer sued, alleging the ordinance was unconstitutional. The trial court granted summary judgment to the county and the taxpayer appealed.

The case was heard at oral argument on November 5, 2012.

On March 25, 2013, the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the trial court ruling. Writing for the Court, Justice Benham explained that the county was authorized to enter into contracts to provide solid waste disposal services and the county commission was authorized to collect the fees for that service on the property tax bill for citizens. The Court also found that the assessment was a charge for services and not a “tax” within the meaning of the Georgia constitution.

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