The Georgia judicial system has two levels of appellate courts: the Georgia Court of Appeals and the Georgia Supreme Court. Except in a few narrow categories of cases, appeals from decisions of Georgia trial courts go to the Georgia Court of Appeals. However, the Georgia Supreme Court can review a decision of the Georgia Court of Appeals by issuing a writ of certiorari. The statistics published by the Court indicated that the Georgia Supreme Court grants a writ of certiorari in response to approximately one out of 10 of the petitions that it receives. The Court’s rules state that a writ “will be granted only cases of great concern, gravity, or importance to the public.” Rule 40, Rules of the Georgia Supreme Court. The Court does not publish opinions explaining why it has granted or refused to grant a writ. Are there any factors that a practitioner can examine to determine whether the chances of getting a writ of certiorari are better than one in 10?
One indication might be whether a judge in the Georgia Court of Appeals dissented from the outcome in your case. The January 2015 argument calendar for the Georgia Supreme Court included 15 cases in which the Georgia Supreme Court had granted a writ of certiorari. Seven were criminal cases and eight were civil cases. Of the eight civil cases on the calendar, the decision of the Georgia Court of Appeals included a dissent in four of those cases. The Court’s February 2015 argument calendar includes five civil certiorari cases. There were dissenting opinions in two of those cases in the Court of Appeals. Since dissents are relatively uncommon in the Georgia Court of Appeals, that approximately one-half of the civil cases in the sample (six of 13) in which the Georgia Supreme Court granted a writ involved a dissenting opinion in the Georgia Court of Appeals is some indication that the presence of a dissenting opinion increases the odds that the Georgia Supreme Court will grant review.
These statistics certainly suggest that if your client was on the losing side of a civil case in which there was a dissenting opinion, the chances that the Georgia Supreme Court will grant a writ of certiorari are significantly better than the general statistical average.
For more information on this topic, contact your Appellate Counsel at Smith, Gambrell & Russell.