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Released Opinions

October 21, 2013

This morning, the Supreme Court of Georgia released opinions in 22 cases, two of which are within the scope of our coverage, and will also hear oral argument at 10:00 am. Summaries of the cases and opinions released are below.

S12G2003. MANDT v. LOVELL

This case involves the ability of a court to modify its prior judgments. In 2008, the trial court converted a temporary family violence protective order against Lovell into a permanent protective order (PPO). Two years later, Lovell sought to terminate the PPO before the same court. In 2011, the trial court held a hearing and granted the motion to terminate the PPO. Mandt appealed, arguing that the trial court was barred from terminating the PPO by res judicata, because it lacked jurisdiction, and because the attempt to terminate the PPO failed to state a claim on which relief can be granted.

The Court of Appeals (Mikell, Miller, Blackwell) unanimously affirmed the trial court’s decision, finding that the trial court may modify its prior orders. The Court of Appeals further found that a judgment that govern continuing or recurring courses of conduct may be modified.

On January 7, 2013, the Supreme Court unanimously granted the petition for certiorari (Blackwell disqualified) to consider the following issue:

  1. Under what circumstances, if any, may a trial court terminate a permanent protective order entered pursuant to OCGA § 19-13-4?

The case was heard on April 15, 2013.

On October 21, 2013, the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the Court of Appeals. Writing for the Court, Justice Melton explained that a family violence protective order is a type of continuing judgment. Because the order can impact family members and their interactions in perpetuity, any family violence protective orders should “remain subject to a potential future burden and benefit analysis.” A court may review the totality of the circumstances and modify a family violence protective order if the underlying balance has substantially changed, even if it is beyond the term in which the order was entered.

S13A1105 Moss et al. v. City of Dunwoody

This case involves the constitutionality of the City of Dunwoody imposing a business occupation tax on lawyers. In 2009, the City of Dunwoody sent a business license application to two lawyers who practiced in the city, requiring them to apply and pay the occupation tax. The lawyers refused and sued the city, claiming the ordinance was unconstitutional because it was a precondition on the practice of law. The trial court found the tax was constitutional and ordered the lawyers to pay the taxes, but not the city’s legal costs. The lawyers appealed.

The case will be argued on June 3, 2013.

On October 21, 2013, the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the decision of the trial court (Melton, concurring specially). Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Thompson explained that local governments have historically been able to collect occupational taxes on lawyers so long as the taxes are intended to generate revenue and are not a license for practicing law. Dunwoody’s ordinance has none of the effects which are evidence of an unconstitutional regulation of the practice of law and thus was constitutional.

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