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January 1, 2024

What to Watch in Georgia Courts in 2024


Public policy and administrative law Robert Highsmith spoke to Law360 about the top court cases to watch in Georgia in the new year. He commented on a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit concerning Atlanta's ordinance preventing non-city residents from collecting signatures for a ballot referendum. A group of Dekalb County residents sued the city after attempting to collect signatures opposing a public safety training facility dubbed "Cop City," arguing the residency requirement violated the First Amendment. Mr. Highsmith commented on the potential significance of the ruling, explaining that a decision in favor of the organizers could lead Georgia's Supreme Court to revisit citizens' ability to use referendums to challenge government policy.

"A city could elect to issue bonds and disgruntled citizens could pass a referendum that takes away the authority to issue the bonds before they're issued," he said. "In other states, like California, it is routine to have this sort of direct democracy referendum on everything, but we have not traditionally seen that here. If courts determine that a citizen-led referendum can overturn otherwise valid ordinances of city governments, that's going to be a sea change in how local government works in Georgia."

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