Georgia Court of Appeals
The Georgia Court of Appeals is the intermediate-level appellate court
Appellate court
An appellate court, commonly called an appeals court or court of appeals or appeal court , is any court of law that is empowered to hear an appeal of a trial court or other lower tribunal...

 for the U.S. state
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

 of Georgia
Georgia (U.S. state)
Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...


Founding of the court

The genesis of the Court of Appeals began with a report by the State Bar of Georgia
State Bar of Georgia
The State Bar of Georgia is the governing body of the legal profession in Georgia, operating under the supervision of the Supreme Court of Georgia. Membership is a condition of admission to practice law in Georgia....

 in 1895, suggesting that the Georgia State Legislature
Georgia General Assembly
The Georgia General Assembly is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Georgia. It is bicameral, being composed of the Georgia House of Representatives and the Georgia Senate....

 create a new intermediate appellate court to relieve some the Georgia Supreme Court of its rapidly growing caseload. The Legislature declined to create a new appellate court, choosing instead to increase the size of the Supreme Court from three judges to five, then later to six. In 1902, Georgia Supreme Court justice Andrew J. Cobb gave a presentation to the State Bar addressing a number of proposals to alleviate the Supreme Court's workload, including the creation of an intermediate court of appeals.

Finally, in 1906, the Legislature approved an amendment to the Georgia state constitution
Georgia (U.S. state) Constitution
The Constitution of the State of Georgia is the governing document of the U.S. state of Georgia. The constitution outlines the three branches of government in Georgia. The legislative branch is embodied in the bicameral General Assembly. The executive branch is headed by the Governor. The judicial...

 to create a three judge court of appeals, to be placed on the ballot
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

 for approval by the citizens. The measure was approved by voters on October 3, 1906.

The first election of judges took place on November 6, 1906. Arthur G. Powell, Richard Russell, Sr.
Richard Russell, Sr.
Richard Brevard Russell, Sr. was and American lawyer, legislator, jurist, and candidate for political office.-Early life, education and family:Russell was born in Marietta, Georgia in 1861...

, and Benjamin H. Hill (the son of former U.S. Senator
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 Benjamin Harvey Hill
Benjamin Harvey Hill
Benjamin Harvey Hill was a U.S. Representative, U.S. senator and a Confederate senator from the state of Georgia.-Biography:Hill was born September 14, 1823 in Hillsboro, Georgia in Jasper County...

) were the first judges elected to the court. Hill was the first chief judge of the court; he received the position largely due to age and seniority (over Russell's objections). The first Clerk of Court
Court clerk
A court clerk is an officer of the court whose responsibilities include maintaining the records of a court. Another duty is to administer oaths to witnesses, jurors, and grand jurors...

 was Logan Bleckley Jr., the son of former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Logan Edwin Bleckley
Logan Edwin Bleckley
Logan Edwin Bleckley was an American lawyer and jurist.Born in 1827 on Screamer Mountain in Rabun County, Georgia, Bleckley became a self-taught lawyer. At age eleven, he started working in his father's office Logan Edwin Bleckley (July 3, 1827 – March 6, 1907) was an American lawyer and...

. One of the first stenographers of the court was Marian Bloodworth, whose appointment was consented to by the three judges despite a provision of the Georgia Civil Code forbidding women from holding civil office.

Until 1916, the Court of Appeals effectively functioned as a second court of last resort for the state of Georgia, there being no provision for appeal
An appeal is a petition for review of a case that has been decided by a court of law. The petition is made to a higher court for the purpose of overturning the lower court's decision....

 from its judgments. This posed two problems for the state: first, despite the constitutional requirement that the Supreme Court's decisions constituted binding precedent over the court of appeals, conflicts began arising between the rulings of the two courts; secondly, the workloads of both courts continued to increase steadily. The Legislature remedied these problems by approving a constitutional amendment to enlarge the subject matter jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals and limit that of the Supreme Court. The Legislature also approved a statute to create an additional three-judge division of the Court of Appeals, providing that all appeals of criminal cases be heard in one division, and the remaining civil cases be divided up so as to equalize their work.

Growth of the court

The Legislature increased the size of the court to seven judges in 1960, and then to nine judges in three divisions in 1961. The requirement for all criminal cases to be heard in one division was repealed in 1967. In 1996, Governor Zell Miller
Zell Miller
Zell Bryan Miller is an American politician from the US state of Georgia. A Democrat, Miller served as Lieutenant Governor from 1975 to 1991, 79th Governor of Georgia from 1991 to 1999, and as United States Senator from 2000 to 2005....

 submitted a bill
Bill (proposed law)
A bill is a proposed law under consideration by a legislature. A bill does not become law until it is passed by the legislature and, in most cases, approved by the executive. Once a bill has been enacted into law, it is called an act or a statute....

 to increase the court's size to thirteen judges. The bill failed, but the Legislature did approve another act to add a tenth judge.

The court grew again in 1999 when Governor Roy Barnes
Roy Barnes
Roy Eugene Barnes served as the 80th Governor of Georgia from January 1999 until January 2003. Barnes was also a candidate for Governor of Georgia in the 2010 election....

 signed a bill which increased the number of judges to twelve. a total of seventy judges have served on the court, with fifteen serving on both the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Georgia.


The court's appellate jurisdiction
Appellate jurisdiction
Appellate jurisdiction is the power of the Supreme Court to review decisions and change outcomes of decisions of lower courts. Most appellate jurisdiction is legislatively created, and may consist of appeals by leave of the appellate court or by right...

 is rather limited in comparison with many other state appellate courts. It may hear appeals in all cases which do not involve:
  • Questions of the constitutionality
    Constitutionality is the condition of acting in accordance with an applicable constitution. Acts that are not in accordance with the rules laid down in the constitution are deemed to be ultra vires.-See also:*ultra vires*Company law*Constitutional law...

     of statutes
  • Land title
    Title (property)
    Title is a legal term for a bundle of rights in a piece of property in which a party may own either a legal interest or an equitable interest. The rights in the bundle may be separated and held by different parties. It may also refer to a formal document that serves as evidence of ownership...

  • The construction of wills
    Will (law)
    A will or testament is a legal declaration by which a person, the testator, names one or more persons to manage his/her estate and provides for the transfer of his/her property at death...

  • Murder
    Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

  • Election
    An election is a formal decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office. Elections have been the usual mechanism by which modern representative democracy operates since the 17th century. Elections may fill offices in the legislature, sometimes in the...

  • Habeas corpus
    Habeas corpus
    is a writ, or legal action, through which a prisoner can be released from unlawful detention. The remedy can be sought by the prisoner or by another person coming to his aid. Habeas corpus originated in the English legal system, but it is now available in many nations...

  • Extraordinary remedies
    Legal remedy
    A legal remedy is the means with which a court of law, usually in the exercise of civil law jurisdiction, enforces a right, imposes a penalty, or makes some other court order to impose its will....

  • Divorce
    Divorce is the final termination of a marital union, canceling the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage and dissolving the bonds of matrimony between the parties...

     and alimony
    Alimony is a U.S. term denoting a legal obligation to provide financial support to one's spouse from the other spouse after marital separation or from the ex-spouse upon divorce...

  • Cases in which original appellate jurisdiction lies with the superior courts

Georgia statute specifies two categories of appeal. Some cases may be appealed as a matter of right, and some cases may only be appealed if the Court of Appeals accepts the appeal ("discretionary review"). Applications for discretionary review will only be granted if reversible error appears to exist, or if establishment of a precedent is desirable. (Court of Appeals Rule 31(a).

In addition, certain rulings made by the trial court may be appealable even if the case is still going on. These interlocutory appeals can only proceed if trial court judge agrees to allow an appeal, and if the Court of Appeals agrees to accept the case.


Despite the court's limited jurisdiction, it is still one of the busiest state appellate courts in the nation. In 2001, 2,544 direct appeal decisions were issued by the Court of Appeals, over three fourths of which were final. Of the remaining cases in which appeal was sought in the Georgia Supreme Court, the Supreme Court granted certiorari
Certiorari is a type of writ seeking judicial review, recognized in U.S., Roman, English, Philippine, and other law. Certiorari is the present passive infinitive of the Latin certiorare...

 in less than 10%.

More than half of the court's decisions are published in the South Eastern Reporter
South Eastern Reporter
The South Eastern Reporter and South Eastern Reporter Second are United States regional case law reporters. It is part of the National Reporter System created by John B...

. Over the past several years, the Court has published an average of 1,461 opinions per year.

The 1996 statute which increased the number of judges to ten also changed the process by which cases would be decided in the event of a dissent. Before 1996, cases in which there was a dissent in one division were decided en banc
En banc
En banc, in banc, in banco or in bank is a French term used to refer to the hearing of a legal case where all judges of a court will hear the case , rather than a panel of them. It is often used for unusually complex cases or cases considered to be of greater importance...

(by the whole court). After this law was passed, cases involving a dissent are determined by seven judges, including the assigned division, the next division in succession and a seventh judge. The Georgia Court of Appeals is unique in that it does not issue 2-1 panel rulings.

If all three Judges on a panel concur in the ruling, then the ruling becomes binding precedent on all courts in Georgia except the Supreme Court. If one of the three Judges concurs (agrees with the result but not the reasoning), the ruling becomes "physical precedent only" - that is, it disposes of the case in front of it but is not binding authority. Physical precedent only cases may be cited as persuasive authority, but are not binding.


The position of Chief Judge is rotated among the sitting judges, generally for a two-year term and upon the basis of seniority of tenure on the Court. By statutory authorization the Chief Judge appoints a Presiding Judge for each of the four divisions. The Presiding Judges remain as the heads of the divisions for the full two-year term of the Chief Judge. The other Judges are assigned to the panels on an annual basis.

As of 2010, the judges on the court are:
  • Anne Elizabeth Barnes (Presiding Judge)
  • Gary Blaylock Andrews (Presiding Judge)
  • Edward H. Johnson
  • G. Alan Blackburn (retired June 2010; currently Senior Judge)
  • J.D. Smith (Presiding Judge)
  • Sara Doyle
  • M. Yvette Miller (Chief Judge)
  • John J. Ellington
  • Herbert E. Phipps (Presiding Judge)
  • Charles B. Mikell
  • A. Harris Adams
  • Debra Bernes (died July 2010)

Chief Judge M. Yvette Miller is the first African-American woman to serve as Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of Georgia. In October 2008, she was unanimously elected by her fellow judges to serve as Chief Judge for a two-year term, which began January 1, 2009. Chief Judge Miller was originally appointed to the Court of Appeals by Governor Roy Barnes on July 12, 1999, when she became the first African-American woman and 65th Judge on the Court. She has been re-elected statewide by the people of Georgia without opposition for two six-year terms, most recently in November 2006. Chief Judge Miller was sworn in for her current term by Governor Sonny Perdue on January 16, 2007.

Since the mid-2010 retirement of Judge Alan Blackburn and sudden passing of Judge Debra Halpern Bernes, the Court has recalled two former Judges - Judge William LeRoy McMurray and Judge Marion T. Pope, Jr. - to assist on a temporary basis. Judge Blackburn also assists as a Senior Judge until his successor is elected.

External links

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