How Does the Georgia Court Of Appeals Work?
The Georgia Court of Appeals is the State’s intermediate appellate court. It is a court of review, and it exercises both appellate and certiorari jurisdiction. The court has statewide appellate jurisdiction over all cases except murder, constitutional questions, and habeas corpus cases. The Georgia Court of Appeals may certify questions of law to the Supreme Court.
The Court of Appeals’ decisions is binding on all lower courts, provided the judgments do not conflict with those of the Supreme Court. The court has five divisions within the State of Georgia, and each division hears and determines cases independently of the other divisions. The quorum for each division is two judges.
The Georgia Court of Appeals has the power to establish a voluntary pre-appeal settlement conference procedure. In doing that, the court may extend the time for filing the record, briefs, enumerations of error, or any other matter that the law stipulates time for filing. The court may also use senior Appellate Court Judges, Justices, and senior Superior Court judges for the settlement conference.
The Georgia Court of Appeals has appellate and certiorari jurisdiction over cases not reserved for the Georgia Supreme Court or conferred on other courts by the law. It has jurisdiction to try criminal cases involving armed robbery, kidnapping, and rape as long the lower court did not impose the death penalty. Other cases that the court has jurisdiction over include:
- Those involving title to land
- Equity cases, except those relating to trials where a sentence of death was or may be given and cases relating to the execution of a death penalty
- Cases involving wills
- Divorce and alimony cases
- Cases involving extraordinary remedies, except those relating to trials where a sentence of death was or may be given and cases relating to the execution of a death penalty
- All other cases that are not reserved for the Supreme Court or conferred by law on other courts
The Georgia Court of Appeals consists of fifteen judges, including a Chief Judge. These judges are selected using the nonpartisan system of electing judges. This means that the candidates are chosen regardless of party affiliation. None of the prospects are elected as representing a political party.
The State has five judicial divisions, and each division consists of three judges. The Chief Judge is responsible for assigning the Court of Appeals judges to the respective divisions. The Chief Judge also designates Presiding Judges for each division and distributes the cases among the divisions to equalize the work as far as is practicable.
The remaining judges are designated to the different panels on an annual basis. The court rotates the judges to allow each Court of Appeals Judge to serve with the other Judges on the court and prevent stereotyping of the judges, divisions, and opinions.
The fifteen Judges elect the Chief Judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals from among themselves. The position is rotated and is usually for a term of two years. The Presiding Judges appointed by the Chief Judge also remain as the heads of the divisions for the Chief Judge’s two-year tenure.
The Judges of the Georgia Court of Appeals may choose to appoint law assistants to serve the court. Such law assistants must be licensed to practice law in the State. The judge may also appoint a person who has graduated from law school but has not been called to bar, as a law assistant. In such cases, the law assistant must be admitted to the bar within a year of the appointment. Note, law assistants must attend all court sessions, if so ordered by the Court of Appeals Judge.
When there is a temporary vacancy in the Georgia Court of Appeals judge’s office, the Governor appoints an interim judge. The Georgia Judicial Nominating Commission presents at least five options to fill each vacancy unless there are fewer eligible persons. The Governor may select the temporary judge from these options. The Commission is made of eighteen members appointed by the Governor.
To be eligible to be a Court of Appeals Judge, a person must be:
- A resident of Georgia
- Licensed to practice law in Georgia for nothing less than seven years
A Georgia Court of Appeals judge may be removed in any of these two ways:
- Conviction by a two-thirds vote of the Georgia State Senate after being impeached by the Georgia House of Representatives
- The Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission may also remove, retire, or discipline a judge. However, the Supreme Court must review any removal and retirement decisions.
A Georgia Court of Appeals judge may be removed for any of these reasons:
- Deliberate misconduct in office
- Continual and willful failure to perform the duties of the office
- Habitual intemperance
- Conviction of a crime that involves moral turpitude
- Conduct that is detrimental to the administration of justice and brings the judicial office to disrepute
The Court of Appeals has a computerized docket system where interested persons may find information on the Georgia Court of Appeals cases dated from January of 2003. Provide either the Court of Appeals or trial court case number or the name of a party. The site produces a list of cases that meet the provided information.
Click on the highlighted case number for more details on the relevant case. The information provided includes:
- The court of appeals case number
- The motions and court actions filed as well as the filing dates
- The trial court and county the case came from
- The trial judge that presided over the case
- The style of the case, i.e., the names of the parties
- The case statute docket date
- The remittitur date
- The date the Court of Appeals gave the ruling
- The names of the attorneys
- The opinion or order given by the Court of Appeals
Alternatively, contact the Office of the Clerk of the Court either on the phone on (404) 656–3450 or in person at:
Court of Appeals of Georgia
330 Capitol Avenue S. E., Suite 1601
Atlanta, GA 30334
Persons visiting the Georgia Court of Appeals must present a photo identification card to access the building. The visit must also be during business hours, which are on Mondays to Fridays from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM.
After a lower court gives a judgment, an aggrieved party has thirty days to file a notice of appeal. Note, filing a motion for reconsideration in the lower court does not extend the deadline for filing a notice of appeal.
The Court of Appeals reviews the appeal cases in the order of which the cases are filed. The law requires that the Georgia Court of Appeals decide each case by the close of the term that the case was docketed or the term directly following. This is usually within six to eight months after the case is docketed.