Those of us who are not attorneys don’t often consider the logistics that go on behind the scenes when we file a lawsuit, bring a case to trial, or appeal a decision in state court. However, some of these logistical issues can have a huge impact on the outcome of a case. Recently, following decades of stagnation, the state of Georgia has finally changed some of those logistics by expanding the upper hierarchy of the state’s judicial branch.
Georgia’s Courts Before
There are three levels of courts in the state of Georgia. The first and lowest is where we find the Superior Courts, where lawsuits are first filed, and where a trial could happen, should the lawsuit get that far. Above the Superior Courts is the Georgia Court of Appeals, which has 12 judges and hears cases that get appealed from the Superior Courts. At the top of the hierarchy is the Supreme Court of Georgia, which takes cases that get appealed from the Georgia Court of Appeals.
One of the biggest problems with this system has been the lack of judges in the Georgia Court of Appeals. For comparison’s sake, the state of New Jersey, which has a smaller population, has 32 judges in its appellate court. This low number meant that it took a long time for a case to be heard on appeal. It had also meant that the Supreme Court of Georgia had to hear more cases, as well, as some cases were diverted to that court to help with the backlog in the Court of Appeals.
The Appellate Jurisdiction Reform Act
Back in May, the Georgia legislature passed a new law – the Appellate Jurisdiction Reform Act – that expanded the number of judges in the Court of Appeals from 12 to 15, and also increased the number of justices on the Supreme Court of Georgia from seven to nine. The Act also shuffled the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals. Some cases, including habeas corpus cases, used to get appealed from the Superior Courts directly to the Supreme Court. Under the Act, though, these cases would have to go through the Court of Appeals, first.
The Act’s Impact on Your Appeal
Procedural changes like these often have a significant, though indirect, impact on specific appeals. For example, if your appeal is a habeas corpus case, or one of the types of cases that no longer gets directly appealed to the Supreme Court of Georgia, then it gives you one more possibility for appealing it after the Court of Appeals hears it.
Federal Criminal Law Center
The changes that this new law has made are still being sorted out by appellate attorneys throughout the state, including those at the Federal Criminal Law Center. While the changes likely do not add enough new appellate judges to the Court of Appeals to get rid of the backlog, there, it is a step in the right direction.
If you have been convicted in a Georgia court on a federal crime, contact the Federal Criminal Law Center online for vigorous representation on appeal.