Articles Posted in Georgia Supreme Court

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The issue on appeal before the Supreme Court was whether the appellate court in "Georgia Dept. of Revenue v. Moore," (730 SE2d 671 (2012)) correctly determined that, once the Georgia Department of Revenue settles a refund action with one responsible party against whom unpaid sales taxes were assessed, the Department was thereafter precluded by the voluntary payment doctrine from attempting collection of any amount still owing from a second responsible party. The Supreme Court found that the Court of Appeals' reasoning in that case was incorrect, and therefore the Court remanded the case for further consideration. View "Georgia Dept. of Revenue v. Moore" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the constitutionality of an ordinance adopted by the City of Dunwoody that imposed an occupational tax on attorneys who maintained an office and practice law in the city. Appellants argued the ordinance: (1) operated as an unconstitutional precondition on the practice of law, as well as an improper attempt to regulate the practice of law; and (2) violated equal protection requirements because it did not apply to attorneys practicing law outside the city limits. The trial court determined the ordinance was constitutional. Finding no error with the trial court's judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Moss v. City of Dunwoody" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court in this case centered on the constitutionality of the Local Option Sales Tax Act ("LOST"), OCGA 48-8-80 et seq., or a provision of it. This case represented the fourth time the matter has come before the Court. The parties to this appeal, and those that have filed amicus curiae briefs, have shown that problems have arisen when the governing entities cannot agree to changes in the distribution formula for purposes of renewing certificates pursuant to the Act. Appellant Turner County and appellees, who are the qualified municipalities within the special taxing district involved in this dispute, reached an impasse in their negotiations for renewing the LOST certificate that authorizes them to collect and distribute tax, which certificate was required to be filed no later than December 30, 2012. Pursuant to the 2010 amendment to the statute, appellee municipalities timely filed a petition with the Turner County Superior Court seeking resolution of the dispute. Turner County filed a motion to dismiss the petition in which it raised various constitutional challenges to the 2010 amendment and its process for submitting the distribution dispute for judicial resolution. The trial court denied Turner County's motion to dismiss and sustained the constitutionality of the 2010 amendment. The court also entered a final order adopting the final and best offer of the municipalities and finding that the municipalities' offer more closely comported with the requirements of the statute and the intent and criteria set forth in the Act. The Supreme Court granted Turner County's application for discretionary appeal to challenge the constitutionality of the 2010 amendment. Upon careful consideration of Turner County's claims of error, the Supreme Court found one dispositive issue: whether the procedure for judicial resolution set forth in OCGA 48-8-89 (d) (4) violated the separation of powers doctrine of the Georgia Constitution of 1983, Art. I, Sec. II, Par. III. The Court concluded this procedure did violate the separation of powers doctrine, and declared that portion of the statute to be void. View "Turner County v. City of Ashburn" on Justia Law

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Trip Network, Inc. and several other online travel companies appealed a superior court judgment dismissing their petition for a writ of mandamus. The companies were defendants in a civil suit filed by the City of Atlanta. The City sought to recover hotel-occupancy taxes, but the case was dismissed when the trial court concluded the City did not exhaust its administrative remedies. The City appealed and the Supreme Court reversed. Atlanta then sued the companies in superior court for back taxes and a permanent injunction to require the companies to collect hotel-occupancy taxes from hotel guests. In response to cross-motions for summary judgment, the superior court ordered the injunction and granted summary judgment to the companies on the back taxes issue. As part of the ruling, the Supreme Court found the trial court had not ruled on the City's claim for conversion. Following the issuance of the remittitur, the superior court ordered the parties to brief the court on whether any claims remained pending and how such claims should have been concluded. The companies argued that after the Supreme Court’s earlier ruling, the case was closed, and sought the writ of mandamus to effectively close the case. The Supreme Court concluded that mandamus was not the appropriate remedy for the travel companies to resolve this matter, and that the trial court properly dismissed their petition. View "Trip Network, Inc. v. Dempsey" on Justia Law

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Appellants John Sherman and Christopher D. Eichler appealed a trial court’s judgment confirming and validating a bond issuance by the City of Atlanta. At the bond validation hearing, the City successfully disputed Appellants’ standing to become parties and raise objections in this case, because no competent evidence was admitted to show that either Appellant was a Georgia citizen and Atlanta resident, which were the prerequisites to becoming a party under the Revenue Bond Law. Appellants appealed, but the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Sherman v. City of Atlanta" on Justia Law

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The trial court in this case ruled that there was no conflict between the 2010 amendment to OCGA 48-5-2 (3) and a 1981 local constitutional amendment providing for the assessment of homestead property in Muscogee County for school and consolidated city-county government taxing purposes. The court further ruled that the 2010 amendment controlled the determination of the fair market value of appellee John Yeoman's recently-purchased homestead property. The Columbus Board of Tax Assessors appeals, but finding no error in the trial court's judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Columbus Board of Tax Assessors v. Yeoman" on Justia Law

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In 1969, the Cities of Atlanta and College Park entered into an agreement for purposes of expanding Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. One of the provisions of the granted Atlanta the exclusive right to collect and levy occupation taxes from businesses located at the Airport that were within the city limits of College Park. In 2007, after commissioning a study for the purpose of reassessing this relationship, College Park informed Atlanta and Airport businesses that it would no longer honor the 1969 Agreement and that it would seek to collect occupation taxes from the Airport businesses including Atlanta's proprietary business operations. Atlanta filed a declaratory action in seeking a judgment that the 1969 Agreement controlled the collection of occupation taxes from businesses operating at the Airport within College Park. Both Atlanta and College Park moved for partial summary judgment, and, in ruling on the cross motions, the trial court found that Atlanta and College Park's 1969 Agreement was unenforceable. The trial court further ruled that OCGA 48-13-13 (5), which prohibited local governments from levying an occupation tax on any "local authority," precluded College Park from levying an occupation tax on Atlanta's proprietary operations because Atlanta met the definition of a "local authority" under the statute. Both parties appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's judgment invalidating the 1969 Agreement, but reversed the trial court's finding that the term "local authority" as used in OCGA 48-13-13 (5) included smunicipalities. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the Court of Appeals was correct in its determination that the City of Atlanta was not a "local authority" as that term is used in the statute. View "City of Atlanta v. City of College Park" on Justia Law

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Robert Mesteller brought suit to challenge Gwinnett County and its Board of Commissioners' (County) Solid Waste Ordinance. He appealed a superior court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the County. Relying upon the Home Rule provision of the Georgia Constitution (among others), the County adopted the Solid Waste Collection and Disposal Ordinance of 2010. Under the Ordinance, the County was divided into five zones, each to be serviced by a private waste management company. The County collected fees for the waste collection services through annual tax assessment notices, which it then remits to the five service providers, minus the service fee. Mesteller received a property tax bill that showed a fee for solid waste collection services. Acting pro se, he sued the County and the members of its Board of Commissioners, individually and as members of the Board, alleging the assessment and collection of the fee violated the Georgia Constitution. After notice and a hearing, the superior court granted the County's motion for summary judgment. Mesteller contended on appeal that the County was without authority to use the annual property tax bill to assess or collect fees for solid waste services because by contracting with private waste management companies to collect solid waste, the County was not, in fact, "provid[ing] solid waste collection services" within the meaning of OCGA 12-8-39.3 (a), and therefore not authorized to place the collection fee on the tax bill of a property owner or to enforce the collection of the fee as set forth in the statute. The Supreme Court concluded that Mestellar's argument "reveal[ed] a misunderstanding of the precedents of [the] Court." As such, the Court affirmed the superior court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the County. View "Mestellar v. Gwinnett County" on Justia Law

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We, the Taxpayers, an unincorporated association of individual taxpayer residents of Effingham County ("Taxpayers"), appealed the trial court's order dismissing Taxpayers's complaint against the Board of Tax Assessors of Effingham County ("Board"). In a separate case, the Board appealed the superior court's denial of its motion for summary judgment. Former OCGA 48-5B-1 became law in 2009, and was effective until January 2011. It placed a moratorium on increases in the assessed value of property subject to ad valorem taxation for taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2009, and continuing through January 9, 2011, but provided an exception from the moratorium for any county which performed or had performed on its behalf a comprehensive county-wide revaluation of all properties in the county in 2008 or any county which in 2009 was under contract prior to February 28, 2009, to have performed on its behalf a comprehensive county-wide revaluation of all properties in the county. The Board, believing that Effingham County met the exception set forth in former OCGA 48-5B-1 (c), did not impose a moratorium on increases in assessed values in the 2009 tax year, but in fact, increased assessed values of certain property. Taxpayers, believing that the exception did not apply and that the moratorium should have been imposed, filed a complaint under OCGA 48-5-296 seeking the removal of Board members. Taxpayers amended the complaint to include the equitable relief of eliminating the 2009 assessed values and imposing instead the 2008 tax year figures; by later amendment, Taxpayers dropped the request to remove Board members, and added a request for a writ of mandamus to compel the Board to act in accordance with Taxpayers's interpretation of OCGA 48-5B-1. Taxpayers moved for summary judgment, contending that the undisputed evidence showed that the exception to the moratorium did not apply; the Board also moved for summary judgment, asserting that OCGA 48-5B-1 was unconstitutional, and, alternatively, that the undisputed facts showed that the statutory exception applied. The trial court denied both motions. The Board then filed its motion to dismiss, asserting that the Taxpayers property owners were obligated to appeal their 2009 ad valorem assessments to the county Board of Equalization, or otherwise in the manner set forth in OCGA 48-5-311, and that the failure to do so precluded the trial court's addressing the equitable and mandamus claims. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court in denying Taxpayers's motion, and vacated the court's decision denying the Board's motion. View "We, The Taxpayers v. Bd. of Tax Assessors Effingham Cty." on Justia Law

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Norma Fitzpatrick, Barry Fitzpatrick and George Elrod, (taxpayers), own parcels of land in Madison County. Following a valuation of those properties for tax purposes by the Madison County Board of Assessors, the taxpayers appealed the valuation to the Madison County Board of Equalization. The Board of Equalization denied the appeal. Subsequently, the taxpayers filed an appeal in superior court, but the Board of Assessors refused to certify the appeal to the superior court unless the taxpayers first paid the filing fee to the superior court clerk. Thereafter, the taxpayers contended that, except for appeals to an arbitrator pursuant to OCGA 48-5-311(f), a taxpayer is not required to pay any fee at all for an appeal. Based on this argument, the taxpayers filed a declaratory action seeking a ruling to this effect. The trial court issued an order finding that the taxpayers are responsible for paying the filing fee, which prompted the taxpayers to appeal to the Supreme Court. Upon review of the applicable statute, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "Fitzpatrick v. Madison Co. Bd. of Tax Assessors" on Justia Law