Articles Posted in Government Law

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In this case, the Georgia Department of Human Services, Family and Children Services (DFCS) granted appellee Jerry Glover's application for Medicaid benefits but imposed a multi-month asset transfer penalty on him pursuant to section 2339 of DFCS's Georgia Economic Support Services Manual due to his refusal to name the State as the remainder beneficiary on an annuity. Glover appealed the penalty to an Office of State Administrative Hearings Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who issued an initial decision reversing the penalty. DFCS then filed a request for agency review by the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH). DCH issued a final decision upholding the penalty. Pursuant to OCGA 50-13-19 of the Administrative Procedures Act, Glover then sought judicial review from the Superior Court which affirmed the final agency decision. The Court of Appeals granted Glover’s application for discretionary appeal and reversed the superior court, concluding that section 2339 of the Eligibility Manual as applied to Glover was inconsistent with the plain language of the federal Medicaid statute and that pursuant to 42 U. S. C. sections 1396p (c) (1) (F) and (G), Glover's annuity was not an asset to which the asset transfer penalty would apply. Appellants, David Cook in his official capacity as Commissioner of DCH and Clyde Reese in his official capacity as Commissioner of DFCS, appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court arguing that the Court of Appeals improperly interpreted the annuity section of the Medicaid Act and erred in holding that sec. 2339 as applied to Glover violated federal law. Asserting that the statutory provisions at issue was ambiguous, appellants contended that the Court of Appeals was required to defer to CMS's interpretation of the federal statute. Because the Supreme Court found that the federal statutory provisions at issue were ambiguous and the relevant administrative agencies’ interpretations of them were based on a permissible construction of the statutory language, it reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision in this case. View "Cook v. Glover" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented to the Supreme Court centered on whether a condemnor may voluntarily dismiss a condemnation action, without the consent of the court or the condemnee, after a special master has entered his award valuing the property at issue but before the condemnor has paid the amount of the award into the court registry or to the condemnee. The Supreme Court concluded after review that a condemnor is not entitled to voluntarily dismiss a condemnation action unilaterally once the special master rendered his award. The Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ judgment to the contrary. View "Dillard Land Investments, LLC v. Fulton County" on Justia Law

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Kristin May was employed as a teacher at River Ridge High School, a public secondary school. In January 2011, May spoke with a former student, sixteen-year-old P. M., who no longer was enrolled as a student at River Ridge, and who recently had transferred to a school in the Fulton County School District. As they spoke, P. M. disclosed that she previously had a sexual relationship with Robert Morrow, a paraprofessional at River Ridge. May, however, did not make any report of the sexual abuse. When these circumstances later came to the attention of law enforcement, May was charged by accusation with a criminal violation of OCGA 19-7-5. May filed a demurrer and plea in bar, contending that the accusation charged no crime as a matter of law. When the trial court heard argument, the State and May stipulated to certain facts, namely that P. M. was no longer was a student at River Ridge when she spoke with May in 2011. Because P. M. was not then enrolled at River Ridge, May argued she had no duty under OCGA 19-7-5 (c) (1) to make a report. The trial court denied the demurrer and plea in bar, reasoning that a school teacher is required to report the abuse of any child, even one with whom the teacher has no relationship at all. After review, the Supreme Court concluded May had no legal obligation to report the sexual abuse, and the trial court erred when it sustained the accusation. View "May v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellants Nettie Lilly and Janet Anderson filed a complaint against appellee Sharon Heard, seeking a writ of quo warranto to remove her from the Baker County Board of Education. Heard moved to dismiss the complaint on various grounds, and the trial court granted the motion. Appellants appealed the trial court's decision. But finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "Lilly v. Heard" on Justia Law

Posted in: Government Law

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Plaintiffs James Hansen and 30 other DeKalb County residents sought to obtain certain information from the DeKalb County Board of Tax Assessors in connection with their 2012 property tax assessments. The trial court denied Plaintiffs’ request for a mandamus nisi, and they appealed. Plaintiffs filed their requests for information each seeking information regarding the appraisal and assessment of his or her property for the 2012 tax year. The trial court found that plaintiffs' claims were not cognizable under the Georgia Open Records Act or in mandamus. The Supreme Court found no error in that decision, and affirmed. View "Hansen v. Dekalb Cty. Bd. of Tax Assessors" on Justia Law

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The issues this case presented to the Supreme Court both arose from the Georgia Department of Community Health's ("DCH's") granting of an application for a Certificate of Need ("CON") to develop an outpatient ambulatory surgery service in East Cobb County to Kennestone Hospital, Inc. Kennestone's application was eventually approved by the DCH after the service was determined to be "part of a hospital" pursuant to Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. r. 111-2-2-.40 (1) (a). Northside Hospital, Inc. opposed the CON and sought administrative review of the DCH's initial decision. After the appeal was unsuccessful, Northside then filed a petition for judicial review with the superior court. The superior court reversed the DCH's decision to grant the CON on the basis that the "case-by-case" provision in Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. r. 111-2-2-.40 (1) (a) was unconstitutionally vague. The Court of Appeals upheld the superior court's determination. "The gist of the Rule is to afford a less stringent review for ambulatory surgery service proposals that are 'part of a hospital.' [. . .] the final sentence of the Rule cannot be read in isolation from the other language contained in it. Thus, contrary to Northside's contentions, the Rule is not unconstitutionally vague on its face, and the Court of Appeals was incorrect to conclude otherwise." View "Georgia Dept. of Community Health v. Northside Hospital, Inc." on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented to the Supreme Court centered on the superior court's validation of a $3.6 million bond, known as the Paulding County Airport Authority Revenue Bond. The Airport Authority and Silver Comet, a commercial aviation company leasing a large portion of the airport terminal for twenty years, entered into a separate agreement regarding the expansion of the airport taxiway. The agreement did not, eliminate the County's obligation to pay principal and interest on the issued bonds. The Airport Authority unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the issuance of the bond. This meeting occurred at the Airport Authority's regular meeting place and was open to the public. A portion of the meeting, however, was conducted in executive session. It appeared from the record that the bond was approved prior to the beginning of the executive session. At another meeting, the Airport Authority supplemented the bond proposal through a supplemental resolution and ratified all of its prior actions. Anthony Avery and Susan Wilkins (collectively Avery) were allowed to intervene and raise opposition to the bond. Among other things, Avery contended the bond violated both the Debt Clause and the Lending Clause of the Georgia Constitution. The trial court disagreed, and entered an order validating the bond. Avery appealed this ruling. But finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Avery v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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David Lee Couch filed a tort lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Corrections. After the Department rejected Couch's offer to settle the case for $24,000, the case proceeded to trial, where the jury returned a verdict for Couch in the amount of $105,417. Based on Couch's 40% contingency fee agreement with his attorneys, the trial court ordered the Department to pay Couch $49,542 in attorney fees after appeal, including post-judgment interest, and litigation expenses, pursuant to the "offer of settlement" statute, OCGA 9-11-68 (b) (2). The Court of Appeals upheld that award. The Supreme Court then granted certiorari to address two questions: (1) whether the appellate court erred when it held that the sovereign immunity of the Department was waived by the Georgia Tort Claims Act as to Couch's attorney fees; and (2) if the sovereign immunity of the Department was waived as to Couch's attorney fees, did the Court of Appeals err by failing to prorate the contingency fee to reflect that some of the fees were incurred before the settlement offer was rejected. The Supreme Court held that the sovereign immunity of the Department was waived as to the attorney fees award under OCGA 9-11-68, but that the trial court did not properly calculate the amount of the award. The Court therefore affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Georgia Dept. of Corrections v. Couch" on Justia Law

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In the spring of 2009, Haley Maxwell was a student at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia. Maxwell reported that she had been beaten and brutally sexually assaulted in her dorm room during the early morning hours of April 13 by a University of Tennessee graduate student named Amanda Hartley. Maxwell also told the officers that on April 27 (two weeks after the alleged attack in her dorm room) she went alone to Hartley's apartment in Knoxville, where Hartley beat her again. A reasonable investigation would have revealed that Maxwell's accusations against Hartley were demonstrably false. Instead, on April 30, without investigating the truth or falsity of Maxwell's story, officers obtained warrants for Hartley's arrest on charges of aggravated sexual battery, battery, and sexual battery. He then contacted the Knoxville Police Department to cause Hartley's arrest and extradition to Georgia. Hartley was arrested and detained in Tennessee on May 6, extradited to Georgia on May 17, and not released on bond until May 28. In December, the district attorney dismissed all charges against Hartley after a reasonable investigation uncovered evidence showing that she was not in Georgia at the time of the alleged assault in Maxwell's dorm room. In April, 2011, Hartley filed a tort lawsuit against Agnes Scott College and three of its campus police officers, alleging that the three officers were acting within the scope of their employment by the college at the relevant times. The complaint sought compensatory and punitive damages based on claims of false arrest, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The officer defendants answered and filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, arguing that they were entitled to immunity. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss, but the Court of Appeals reversed. After considering the Georgia Tort Claims Act (GTCA) as a whole, rather than only its definitions section, the Supreme Court disagreed with a three-judge panel of the Court of appeals that concluded the officers were entitled to immunity. "[I]t was clear from the trial court record that the Agnes Scott officers were not acting for any state government entity when they committed the alleged torts." The Court therefore reversed the Court of Appeals' plurality opinion. View "Hartley v. Agnes Scott College" on Justia Law

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This case centered on two actions filed by Keith DeCay concerning the ownership of four tracts of land located at 629 Boulevard in Atlanta: (1) a quiet title action and (2) a breach of contract action against the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) from which he purchased part of 629 Boulevard at a foreclosure auction. In the quiet title action, DeCay argued (among other things) that the trial court erred by adopting a Special Master report tainted by a conflict of interest. In the breach of contract action, DeCay argued that the trial court erred by finding that the FDIC was not required to convey all four tracts of 629 Boulevard to him. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court with respect to both actions. View "DeCay v. Houston" on Justia Law