Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Georgia

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Consolidated appeals arose out of a complaint filed by four Georgia taxpayers in which they challenged the constitutionality of Georgia’s Qualified Education Tax Credit, Ga. L. 2008, p. 1108, as amended (“HB 1133” or the “Bill”). HB 1133 set up a tax credit program that allows individuals and businesses to receive a Georgia income tax credit for donations made to approved not-for-profit student scholarship organizations (“SSOs”). The Bill created a new tax credit statute for that purpose. Generally speaking, the SSO is required to distribute the donated funds as scholarships or tuition grants for the benefit of students who meet certain eligibility requirements, and the parent or guardian of each recipient must endorse the award to the accredited private school of the parents’ choice for deposit into the school’s account. Plaintiffs alleged: (1) the Program was educational assistance program, and the scheme of the Program violated the Constitution; (2) the Program provided unconstitutional gratuities to students who receive scholarship funds under the Program by allowing tax revenue to be directed to private school students without recompense, and also that the tax credits authorized by HB 1133 resulted in unauthorized state expenditures for gratuities; (3) the Program took money from the state treasury in the form of dollar-for-dollar tax credits that would otherwise be paid to the State in taxes, and since a significant portion of the scholarships awarded by the SSOs goes to religious-based schools, the Program takes funds from the State treasury to aid religious schools in violation of the Establishment Clause; and (4) the Department of Revenue violated the statute that authorized tax credits for contributions to SSOs by granting tax credits to taxpayers who have designated that their contribution is to be awarded to the benefit of a particular individual, and by failing to revoke the status of SSOs that have represented to taxpayers that their contribution will fund a scholarship that may be directed to a particular individual. Plaintiffs sought mandamus relief to compel the Commissioner of Revenue to revoke the status of SSOs, and injunctive relief against the defendants to require them to comply with the constitutional provisions and statutory laws set forth in the complaint. In addition to mandamus relief and injunctive relief, plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that the Program was unconstitutional. The Georgia Supreme Court found no error in the trial court’s finding plaintiffs lacked standing to pursue their constitutional claims, or their prayer for declaratory relief with respect to those claims, either by virtue of their status as taxpayers or by operation of OCGA 9-6-24. Consequently plaintiffs failed to allege any clear legal right to mandamus relief. View "Gaddy v. Georgia Dept. of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The issue on appeal in this case centered on the potential effects on the territory of school systems and the ownership of school property stemming from the annexation of parts of Fulton County by the City of Atlanta. In 1950, the Georgia General Assembly passed a local constitutional amendment addressing these issues (1950 LCA). In 1950, the independent school system of Atlanta (APS) was part of the City’s municipal government, not a separate political entity. In 1973, however, the General Assembly separated APS from the City’s municipal government by enacting separate charters for the two entities and removing most educational powers and responsibilities from the City government. In 2015, the City initiated this case by filing a declaratory judgment action in which it sought guidance on whether: (1) the City could annex Fulton County property without also expanding the boundaries of APS to cover the newly annexed area; and (2) the City could exercise its own delegated authority to determine if it wanted to expand the boundaries of APS after the City annexed new property. The City argued that HB 1620 (the pertinent legislation) did not properly continue the 1950 LCA, and, as a result, it stood repealed. The Fulton County School District (“FCS”) intervened, then the City moved for summary judgment, APS moved for judgment in its favor on the pleadings, and FCS moved to dismiss the City’s action. The trial court entered a final order denying the City’s motion, granting APS’s motion, and granting FCS’s motion, treating all of them as summary judgment motions. Ultimately, the trial court determined that: (1) the City’s declaratory action, in part, was not barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity; and (2) the 1950 LCA was properly continued by HB 1620. The City appealed the trial court’s ruling that the 1950 LCA was properly continued, and APS has cross-appealed to contend that the trial court erred by not finding that the City’s declaratory judgment action was barred in its entirety by sovereign immunity. Because this matter was not ripe for consideration at the time that the trial court considered the City’s action, the Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s opinion. View "City of Atlanta v. Atlanta Indep. Sch. Sys." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Alfred Fuciarelli was a tenured faculty member at Valdosta State University (“VSU”). Fuciarelli was at one time also assistant vice president for research and a dean of the graduate school. After he complained about VSU’s “noncompliance with laws, rules and regulations,” VSU terminated Fuciarelli’s contract to serve as an assistant vice president and dean. Although Fuciarelli remained as a member of the faculty, his salary and benefits were reduced. Fuciarelli appealed his termination to the Board of Regents which affirmed VSU’s decision. Thereafter, Fuciarelli filed suit against the Board of Regents, William McKinney, individually and in his official capacity as president of VSU, and Karla Hull, individually and in her official capacity as a former acting vice president of VSU, seeking damages under both the Public Employee Whistleblower Retaliation Act, and the Taxpayer Protection Against False Claims Act (“TPAFCA”). The trial court denied defendants’ motion to dismiss the public employee whistleblower retaliation claim, but granted defendants’ motion to dismiss the taxpayer retaliation claim on the ground that Fuciarelli failed to obtain the approval of the Attorney General before filing suit. The Georgia Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals to determine whether it correctly held that the TPAFCA did not require the Attorney General to approve taxpayer retaliation claims brought under subsection (l) of the Act. Because the plain language of the statute required the Attorney General to approve a taxpayer retaliation claim prior to filing suit, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals' holding to the contrary. View "McKinney v. Fuciarelli" on Justia Law

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In this case, a group of college students, including Miguel Olvera, who were not United States citizens and who were grant beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) filed a declaratory judgment action against the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents and its members in their official capacities seeking a declaration that they were entitled to in-state tuition at schools in the University System of Georgia. The trial court granted the Board’s motion to dismiss on the ground that sovereign immunity barred the action, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Olvera v. University System of Georgia's Board of Regents" on Justia Law