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Court of Appeals New Operating Procedures

                                            

Prior to July 1, 2016, OCGA 15-3-1 governed certain procedures of this Court in the event of a dissent or the overruling of precedent. See OCGA 15-3-1(c) (2015) (providing that, in the event of a dissent, "the division next in line in rotation and a seventh Judge shall participate"); OCGA 15-3-1(d) (2015) (providing that certain precedents may be overruled with the participation of two divisions plus a seventh Judge, while overruling other precedents required "the concurrence of all the Judges"). This Court’s internal operating procedures were consistent with these statutory provisions.

 

Effective July 1, 2016, the substantive requirements of OCGA 15-3-1 governing how many judges were required to decide certain cases changed materially. See 2016 Ga. L. 865, § 2-1 (HB 927 of the 2016 Session of the Georgia General Assembly). These provisions now empower this Court to determine how such cases will be heard and decided.

  • OCGA 15-3-1(c)(2): "The Court of Appeals may provide by rule for certain cases to be heard and determined by more than a single division and the manner in which those Judges will be selected for such cases. When a case is heard and determined by more than a single division, nine Judges shall be necessary to constitute a quorum."
  • OCGA 15-3-1(d): "The Court of Appeals shall provide by rule for the establishment of precedent and the manner in which prior decisions of the court may be overruled."

 

 Consistent with this new statutory authority, the Judges of this Court adopted, effective July 1, 2016, new operating procedures. These procedures shall remain in effect until such time as new rules are adopted. These procedures included:

  • In the event of a dissent, the two divisions immediately following the original division shall also participate ("Whole Court Nine-Judge Case"); and
  • In the event of a case involving the overruling of a prior decision of this Court, all 15 Judges of this Court shall participate (provided, however, that the disqualification of one or more Judges in such a case shall not prevent the overruling of a prior decision so long as at least nine Judges participate).

 

On September 1, 2016, the Judges of this Court approved changes to its operating procedures, which the Court plans to implement no later than the December Term of 2017. They are as follows:

  • The Court will allow 2-1 decisions in the event of a dissent, without requiring two additional divisions of the Court to participate. A 2-1 decision will constitute physical precedent only and be of no precedential value. See Court of Appeals Rule 33.
  • The Court will establish operating procedures to poll the entire Court to determine whether the Court desires to hear the case en banc in the event precedent is proposed to be overruled or a judge wishes to have the entire Court consider a case en banc. The Court is also considering procedures by which a party may request a rehearing en banc, consistent with the two-term rule.

 

In addition to the foregoing changes, the Court—in preparation for the jurisdictional shift of divorce cases to the Court of Appeals—adopted verbatim current Georgia Supreme Court Rule 34 (4), to be effective simultaneously with the January 1, 2017 effective date of the jurisdictional shift. The Court also substantially revised its rules to, among other things, provide detailed requirements and guidance with respect to electronic filings. These updated rules will be released in the near future.

  

STEVE E. CASTLEN

Clerk/Court Administrator

Court of Appeals of Georgia