The Georgia Court of Appeals is the State’s intermediate appellate court. It has statewide appellate jurisdiction in all cases except murder and constitutional questions. Its decisions are binding on all lower courts unless in conflict with those of the Supreme Court.
Three judges were elected to the Court of Appeals in 1906: Arthur G. Powell, Richard Russell Sr., and Benjamin Hill (son of U.S. Senator Benjamin Hill).
In cases where exclusive appellate jurisdiction is not reserved for the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals hears appeals from superior courts and state courts (except for those involving death sentences or petitions for writs of habeas corpus). It also hears a limited number of appeals from other federal district and circuit courts.
The history of the Court of Appeals began in 1895 when a report from the State Bar recommended that the legislature create an intermediate Georgia Appellate Court to help alleviate the heavy caseload of the Supreme Court. The legislature declined to do so, and increased the number of Justices on the Supreme Court instead.
Among the first judges to be elected to Georgia’s highest court were Arthur G. Powell of Blakely and Logan E. Bleckley of Albany, who are regarded as some of the state’s greatest jurists. They were a part of the Court of Appeals’ founding bench, and the court’s motto was crafted by them: “Upon the integrity, wisdom and independence of the judiciary depend the sacred rights of free men and women.”.
The Court of Appeals is the first stop for most appeals in the Georgia judicial system. It has 12 judges that hear cases in three-judge panels. The judges on this court have extensive legal experience and are known for their fast turnaround time in cases that are submitted to them. Their credo is “Upon the integrity, wisdom and independence of the judiciary depend the sacred rights of free men and women.”
The superior court has exclusive, constitutional jurisdiction over felony criminal cases, cases involving title to land, divorce, equity, declaratory judgments, quo warrants, prohibition, and habeas corpus. It also exercises appellate jurisdiction in civil cases from lower courts in the state of Georgia. Superior courts are divided into forty-nine judicial circuits and have elected judges in nonpartisan, countywide elections to four-year terms. In addition to hearing felony appeals, the Supreme Court of Georgia hears all appeals from superior courts concerning death penalty cases. State courts have exclusive jurisdiction over misdemeanor cases in all counties except those where the death penalty has been or could be imposed.
Filing a Notice of Appeal
The Court of Appeals can affirm, reverse or return the case to the trial judge for additional information. It does not hear new evidence or witnesses, but examines the legality of the lower court’s decision.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, there are many reasons to file an appeal. Having a skilled attorney to review the record from your initial trial and provide a list of valid grounds for appealing is a good start.
It is important that the notice of appeal be properly drafted, filed and served within 30 days of imposition of sentence. This can be challenging, and errors are not uncommon. For example, your notice could get lost in the mail and not arrive until after the deadline has expired, or it could be routed to the wrong clerk or logged in late. Proof that the notice was mailed is not sufficient to establish its filing. You must also file a certificate of service showing that the notice and all other appellate documents were served on all parties who are entitled to receive them.
Filing a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
Habeas corpus is an important right that protects a person’s freedom from being held against their will by the government. This is an extremely serious issue, and a lawyer will carefully review the circumstances surrounding your case to determine whether there are grounds for filing this petition.
This is not a statutory appellate procedure like direct appeal; it is discretionary, and the Supreme Court only grants these applications when they believe that the matter has merit and there is a clear reason for doing so. The Court of Appeals may not transfer the matter to the Supreme Court without a certificate indicating that it has jurisdiction, and that certificate must be issued by a judge of this Court.
The petition must state concisely each ground on which you claim you are being detained unlawfully and describe the facts supporting each ground. It must also be accompanied by an affirmation or declaration made under penalty of perjury.