Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Georgia

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The Director of the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) brought formal charged against Eddie Anderson, the Chief Magistrate Judge for Tattnall County. The acts of judicial misconduct arose from the repossession of a vehicle from a woman by the owner of an automobile dealership due to lack of payment to the dealership and lack of insurance on the vehicle. Judge Anderson demanded via an ex parte phone call that the owner either return the woman’s repossessed vehicle or remit the money paid to the dealership for the vehicle and reimburse the woman for her insurance costs. When the owner refused these ex parte demands, Judge Anderson advised the woman to file a case against the owner in his court, which she later did. Judge Anderson undermined the public integrity and impartiality of the judiciary by advising the woman to file a case and by making ex parte demands before a case was even filed. Moreover, Judge Anderson’s demands and the woman’s subsequent lawsuit violated clearly established law. The Georgia Supreme Court accepted an agreement between the JQC and Judge Anderson that he be publicly reprimanded for his admitted violations of the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct. View "Inquiry concerning Judge Eddie Anderson" on Justia Law

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The Georgia Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari in this case to decide whether, when a motion to recuse the trial judge is filed after the judge has orally held a party’s attorney in contempt, the recusal motion must be decided before the judge may properly proceed to enter a written contempt order. Michael O. Mondy, Esq. represented Moses Langford, the defendant in a breach of contract and trade secrets lawsuit brought in state court by Langford’s former employer, Magnolia Advanced Materials, Inc. Langford was also the plaintiff in an employment discrimination case against Magnolia brought in federal court in Georgia, and Magnolia was also the defendant in a trade secrets case brought by its competitor, Epoplex, in federal court in South Carolina. A few days after Epoplex issued a federal court subpoena to Langford requesting Magnolia documents, the trial judge in the state case entered an injunction prohibiting Mondy and Langford from directly or indirectly disclosing or permitting unauthorized access to Magnolia’s non-public information. Magnolia moved to quash the federal subpoena, and a federal magistrate judge entered an order staying compliance with the subpoena until further order. A few days later, Mondy filed an unsealed brief with 28 exhibits opposing the motion to quash. Because the brief was not sealed, Magnolia’s non-public information in the exhibits was made available not only to the general public but to Magnolia’s competitor Epoplex – to whom Mondy also directly sent a Dropbox link containing the brief and exhibits. Magnolia then filed a motion in the state case to hold Mondy and Langford in contempt of the injunction. Days later, Mondy moved the trial court to recuse the trial judge. The judge did not immediately rule on the recusal motion. Instead, the judge held Mondy in contempt, then voluntarily recused himself from further proceedings. Mondy appealed the contempt order. The Court of Appeals held that the trial judge could ignore the pending recusal motion and enter the contempt order. The Georgia Supreme Court disapproved that holding, concluding that under Uniform Rule of Superior Court 25.3, the entry of a written contempt order was an “act upon the merits” of the contempt proceeding that a trial judge whose impartiality has been formally called into question may not properly perform until the recusal motion has been decided. The Court concluded, however, that even assuming the motion to recuse in this case was not only filed with the clerk but also “presented” to the trial judge as Rule 25.3 required, the motion was legally insufficient on its face. Thus, if properly considered, the recusal motion would not have required the trial judge’s recusal, and the judge’s procedural error does not require the Supreme Court to vacate the contempt order that followed. Therefore, the Court ultimately affirmed the Court of Appeals. View "Mondy v. Magnolia Advanced Materials, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case raised a question of whether Alexander v. Georgia, 772 SE2d 655 (2015), could be applied retroactively. The Georgia Supreme Court held that an attorney’s failure to counsel his client about parole eligibility may give rise to a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. Teresa Lynn Kohnle pleaded guilty to felony murder in December 2010, before Alexander was decided, but after the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U. S. 356 (2010), on which the Georgia Court relied in deciding Alexander. Sentenced to life in prison, Kohnle filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging that her plea counsel was ineffective in several ways, including that he failed to inform her of the parole eligibility implications of a life sentence. The habeas court granted Kohnle’s petition, relying on Alexander to conclude that Kohnle’s counsel had rendered ineffective assistance. The Warden appealed, arguing that the habeas court erred in applying Alexander retroactively. The Georgia Supreme Court agreed with the Warden that the habeas court erred by applying Alexander to find that plea counsel performed deficiently by failing to advise Kohnle that she would not be eligible for parole for 30 years if she pleaded guilty, and thus the Court vacated the habeas court’s order. But the Court remanded for the habeas court to consider Kohnle’s claim that counsel was deficient for affirmatively misinforming her about parole eligibility matters, something the Court had held could support a claim of ineffective assistance long before Kohnle entered her plea. View "Kennedy v. Kohnle" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff RES-GA McDonough LLC (“RES-GA”) brought a legal malpractice action against Taylor English Duma LLP and two of its attorneys (collectively, “Taylor English”). RES-GA contended that Taylor English failed to timely assert a Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act claim, thus damaging RES-GA’s ability to satisfy its judgment against a debtor. Taylor English moved to dismiss the complaint, contending that RES-GA had failed to allege a viable underlying cause of action to support its malpractice claim. The trial court agreed and granted Taylor English’s motion to dismiss. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "RES-GA McDonough, LLC v. Taylor English Duma, LLP" on Justia Law

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Appellant Wardell White entered guilty pleas to felony murder and other crimes in connection with the shooting deaths of Victor Martinez and Mauricio Maldonado, and the trial court entered judgments of conviction and sentence on the guilty pleas that did not merge. During the same term of court, Appellant filed two pro se motions to withdraw guilty pleas. The State moved to dismiss the pro se motions on the ground that Appellant was represented by counsel when he filed them, and the trial court granted the State’s motion. Appellant, assisted by counsel, filed a timely notice of appeal. However, finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "White v. Georgia" on Justia Law