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
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Education Law, Government & Administrative Law, Non-Profit Corporations, Tax Law
The Stuttering Foundation, Inc. (“Foundation”) leased office space in a commercial development in Glynn County owned by Lucas Properties Holdings III, LLC (“Lucas”). In 2015, Lucas filed an application for rezoning of the property to construct an addition to the rear of one of the existing buildings in the development, the building in which the Foundation leased its office. It also sought approval of a site plan for the proposed construction. Both were approved in March 2016. For various reasons, the Foundation opposed the new development and filed a petition for judicial review of the rezoning application and Site Plan, or in the alternative, for mandamus reversing the County’s approval. Both the County and Lucas filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on its merits. The trial court entered an order granting the County’s motion to dismiss, concluding that the Foundation lacked standing to raise its objections to the rezoning. The Georgia Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that the Foundation demonstrated no right to contest the rezoning decision. Lucas’s motion to dismiss was a nullity and therefore vacated. View "The Stuttering Foundation of America, Inc. v. Glynn County" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Government & Administrative Law, Landlord - Tenant, Non-Profit Corporations, Zoning, Planning & Land Use
The court granted wife's application for discretionary appeal from the final judgment and decree of divorce. At issue was the equitable division of a closely-held non-profit corporation. The court concluded that the superior court functioned as the finder of fact, and as such, it was authorized to give credit and weight to the disputed evidence in favor of husband. The court also concluded that wife's complaints that the superior court erred in failing to consider her request for attorney fees and to award them to her because husband refused to comply with discovery and/or there was substantial disparity in the parties' financial circumstances was unavailing. View "Jones-Shaw v. Shaw" on Justia Law
Plaintiff, the non-profit corporation that served as the homeowners association for the Skidway Island Community, sued defendants claiming that defendants did not own a strip of land which was located between defendants' eastern boundary line of their property and the marshlands that were located to the east of their property. At issue was whether the trial court properly granted summary judgment in part for plaintiffs, finding that the property at issue was owned by plaintiffs, in that it had been transferred by deed from The Branigar Organization (Branigar), the entity that previously owned the property, to plaintiffs and finding that defendants did not gain title to the property in question by prescription. The court held that because the undisputed evidence revealed that plaintiffs gained title to the disputed property through a proper conveyance from Branigar and that the land in question was not owned by any other entity, the trial court properly granted summary judgment to plaintiffs on its claim of holding the valid title to the property. The court also held that there was no deadline by which the common areas had to be conveyed in order for the conveyances to be valid. The court further held that the trial court did not err in finding that defendants' claim for prescriptive title failed as a matter of law. Accordingly, the judgment was affirmed.