James.qxp Jan Feb 2019 web - Page 15

Before and after the last votes were counted and
recounted, federal and state courts were flooded with
lawsuits challenging Georgia’s methodology of holding
elections. This author represents some of the defendants
in several of these lawsuits. The complaints ranged from
issues regarding provisional ballots, to voting machines
and interpreters. They all had one common thread: litigants— including some whose stated mission was to
seek change from the legislative branch— were asking
the judiciary to oversee and, in some cases, rewrite
Georgia’s election law.
By the time of this edition’s publication, some of
these cases may already have been resolved. Some will
have not. Whatever the status of those cases may be,
there will almost assuredly be various pieces of legislation
that will address some of the issues raised in the lawsuits. If that legislation becomes law, it may impact the
outcome of such lawsuits— for better or for worse.
Georgia courts have taken an increasingly deferential
view toward state government and state actors. In a
series of recent opinions, Georgia courts have stated that
Georgia’s constitution makes suing state and local governments— even when not seeking money damages—
difficult if not impossible in most cases. The courts’ decisions impact how persons can challenge state and local
laws and regulations, and it has diminished the ability to
obtain judicial review of bid protests and other types of
cases that are based on government activity.
In 2017, the legislature passed legislation to address
this issue, but Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed it. In 2018, a compromise seemed obtainable, but it collapsed at the last
minute. The issue is an important one that often flies
under the radar. It is one that will likely continue to be
considered, however, as judicial review is a key part of not
only vindicating constitutional rights but also maintaining
an active role for each branch of Georgia’s government.
All in all, many of the same challenges that the legislature debated in 2017-2018 will be considered by many
members for the first time. This creates opportunities for
change but also for calls involving study and delay. Which
call wins remains unclear.
Josh Belinfante is an attorney with Robbins Ross Alloy Belinfante
Littlefield LLC in Atlanta.


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