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Posts Tagged ‘Georgia’

United States Supreme Court to Decide Whether Georgia Law can be Copyrighted

Posted on: July 15th, 2019

By: Jason Kamp

The United States Supreme Court recently agreed to decide whether the annotations contained in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA.) can be copyrighted by the state of Georgia, granting certiorari in State of Georgia, et al. v. Public.Resource.org, Inc., Case No. 18-1150 (S. Ct. June 24, 2019).

As explained by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, “In most states the ‘official’ code is comprised of statutory text alone, and all agree that a state’s codification cannot be copyrighted because the authorship is ultimately attributable to the People. Conversely, all agree that annotations created by a private party generally can be copyrighted because the annotations are an original work created by a private publisher. But the annotations in the OCGA are not exactly like either of these two types of works. Rather, they fall somewhere in between — their legal effect and ultimate authorship more indeterminate.” State of Georgia, et al. v. Public.Resource.org, Inc., 906 F.3d 1229, 1232 (11th Cir. 2018).

Unlike most official state codes, Georgia’s official code is annotated with non-statutory text.  This text includes summaries of judicial decisions, editor’s notes, research references, notes on law review articles, summaries of Attorney General opinions and other materials.  “The Code itself makes clear that these annotations are a part of the official Code, stating that the statutory portions of the Code ‘shall be merged with annotations… and [are] published by authority of the state …and when so published [are to] be known and may be cited as the ‘Official Code of Georgia Annotated.’ O.C.G.A. § 1-1-1.”  Id. at 1233.

The annotations are developed by a private party, LexisNexis, according to a contract with the State of Georgia. This contract specifies the type of annotations that appear with the statutory text and requires that LexisNexis present the content in a specific manner.  A state commission supervises the work LexisNexus performs and holds final editorial control. The Georgia legislature then adopts the annotations as their own, merging them with the statutory text in a process similar to passing the underlying laws. The State of Georgia holds the copyrights to the annotations LexisNexus creates.

Litigation over the copyrighted annotations began when a non-profit organization purchased and scanned all 186 printed volumes of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated and posted them to its free website.  The state sued and won in the district court.  Late last year the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding Georgia’s official code annotations are sufficiently “law-like” to be considered a work created by the state and outside the realm of copyrightable material.

The United State Supreme Court does not grant cert to affirm a lower court’s decision nearly as often as it does to reverse.  However, this case resides at the tension point between two American values: equal access to democratic institutions and private property rights.  Perhaps the Court merely wants to weigh in.

If you have questions or would like more information, please contact Jason Kamp at jkamp[email protected].

Some Potential Certainty in an Outcome in an Uncertain Medical Malpractice World

Posted on: July 12th, 2019

By: Shaun Daugherty

Medical malpractice claims can be dangerous in front of a jury and some recent Georgia verdicts are proof of that.  In Georgia, as many other states, medical doctors typically have consent clauses in their professional liability policies that require their consent before any payment may be offered by the insurance company.  In part, this is because any payment by the insurance company on behalf of the provider to settle a malpractice claim is reportable to the National Practitioner’s Databank(“NPDB”) and, for physicians, the Georgia Composite Medical Board (“the Board”).  The Board has the power over the providers’ licenses and a report could start an investigation that could lead to sanctions against the providers’ license, up to and including revocation, and the sanctions are public record.

Because of the uncertainty in the medical malpractice trials, may times the parties seek some parameters in the form of high/low agreements where the plaintiff is guaranteed some minimal amount even if the jury returns a verdict in favor of the provider, but caps the top dollar payout even if the jury awards more.  However, the consent clause in the providers’ insurance contracts usually require that this agreement also be consented to because the payment of the “low,” even in light of a defense verdict, would require a reporting to the Board, but not the NPDB.  Georgia HB 128 changes this state reporting requirement now that it has been signed into law.

The NPDB does not require reporting of the payment of a “low” in light of a defense verdict in a medical malpractice trial and HB 128 seems to mirror the intent of the federal reporting requirements.  Now, if a physician receives a defense verdict at trial, any payment of a “low” is no longer reportable to the Board by the insurance carrier and, thus, no potential investigation or sanctions.  This removal of the reporting requirement may result in incentivizing physicians to consent to these types of agreements in the future to allow for more certainty on the potential outcomes of the cases, regardless of what a jury may do.

If you have questions or would like more information, please contact Shaun Daugherty at [email protected].

McKinney Due Process Analysis Alive and Well in the Eleventh Circuit

Posted on: April 9th, 2019

By: Dana Maine

This will be a short blog: “The question before us is whether a litigant in this Circuit has a substantive-due-process claim under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment when the alleged conduct is the unlawful application of a land-use ordinance. The answer to that question is a resounding ‘no’ – an answer that this Court delivered in McKinney v. Pate, 20 F.3d 1550 (11th Cir. 1994), 24 years ago and has affirmed ever since.”  Hillcrest Property, LLP v. Pasco County, 915 F.3d 1292 (11th Cir. 2019).  The opinion is a good read for land use practitioners in all circuits.

As for people interested in Georgia law, note that the Georgia Supreme Court has followed the legislative vs. administrative/adjudicative distinction from the federal law in the 2017 trilogy of land use cases – City of Cumming v. Flowers, 300 Ga. 820 (2017), Schumacher v. City of Roswell, 301 Ga. 635 (2017), Diversified Holdings, LLP v. City of Suwanee, 302 Ga. 597 (2017).

For assistance with this or any other local government matter, please contact Dana Maine, [email protected], or any other member of our National Government Practice Group, a list of which can be found on our website – www.fmglaw.com.

 

Georgia Court of Appeals Concludes the Term “Affiliate” is Ambiguous

Posted on: February 4th, 2019

By: Jake Carroll

In Salinas v. Atlanta Gas Light Company,[1] the Georgia Court of Appeals’ recently examined whether Georgia Natural Gas (“GNG”) and Atlanta Gas Light Company (“AGLC”) were “affiliates.” Both AGLC and GNG were owned and controlled, either directly or through an intermediary, by a company named AGL Resources, Inc.

In Salinas, AGLC sought to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims and compel arbitration. In support of its argument, AGLC relied on a term in GNG’s service agreement that required the Plaintiff to arbitrate any disputes with GNG’s “affiliates.” However, since the term “affiliate” was not defined in GNG’s agreement, the Court of Appeals looked at how the term “affiliate” is defined in the Georgia Code, Black’s Law Dictionary, and other jurisdictions, and ultimately determined that the term is ambiguous. The Court of Appeals construed the agreement against GNG—the drafter of the contract—and as a result, AGLC could not demand arbitration of Plaintiff’s dispute.

While the Court of Appeals did not set-out a specific definition for “affiliate,” the Court’s analysis provides a couple of practice tips to anyone involved in drafting, reviewing, or enforcing contracts, including commercial agreements, government contracts, or insurance policies.

  1. Define Your Terms: The Salinas Court may not have had to address the meaning of “affiliates” if the Agreement had defined the term. But, since the term was not defined, the Court looked elsewhere, including other jurisdictions, the Georgia Code, and the dictionary to determine its meaning. Including a definitions section is an easy way to set out the agreed-upon meaning of a term throughout a contract, and should not be overlooked.
  2. Be Explicit: If there is a certain sibling or parent corporation that should be a beneficiary of a contract, consider listing the specific “affiliates” to which the contract or agreement should apply.
  3. Check Your State’s Code: The Court noted that the term “affiliate” is defined over 20 times in the Georgia Code, and the definitions vary. For example, in the context of financial institutions, an affiliate is an entity that controls the election of a majority of directors, trustees of a financial institution, or an entity that owns or controls 50 percent or more of the financial institution. O.C.G.A. § 7-1-4 (1). In Georgia’s Corporations Act, the definition of affiliate is broader: “a person that directly, or indirectly through one or more intermediaries, controls or is controlled by or is under common control with a specified person.” O.C.G.A. § 14-2-1110 (1).[2] Depending on the type of corporate entity, “affiliate” may not include every entity in a corporate structure, and certain rules regarding ownership and control may be relevant.

If you need help with this issue, or any other commercial law questions, Jake Carroll practices construction and commercial law, is licensed to practice in Georgia and Florida, and is a member of Freeman Mathis & Gary’s Construction Law and Tort and Catastrophic Loss practice groups. He represents corporations and manufacturers in a wide range of litigation and corporate matters involving breach of contract, business torts, and products liability claims. He can be reached at [email protected].

[1] 347 Ga. App. 480; 819 S.E.2d 903 (2018).
[2] See also O.C.G.A. § 18-2-71 (1) (B) (“Affiliate” has multiple definitions, including “[a] corporation 20 percent or more of whose outstanding voting securities are directly or indirectly owned, controlled, or held with power to vote by the debtor or a person who directly or indirectly owns, controls, or holds with power to vote 20 percent or more of the outstanding voting securities of the debtor[.] …”).

EB1 Success Story

Posted on: December 20th, 2018

By: Kenneth Levine

The FMG Immigration Group was retained in June 2018 to prepare an EB1 “Alien of Extraordinary Ability” petition on behalf of Woman International Chess Master Mariam Danelia. Mariam, who hails from the country of Georgia, was residing in the U.S. pursuant to F-1 Optional Practical Training after having earned a Master of Science degree in Accounting from the University of Texas at Dallas.

Mariam happens to be one of the finest female chess players ever produced by the country of Georgia. She is currently the 20th ranked female chess player in Georgia and is overall ranked in the 99th percentile of female chess players worldwide. While attending UT at Dallas, Mariam was a key member of the school’s powerhouse chess team. The UT at Dallas chess team is a perennial favorite to qualify for the “final four” tournament of collegiate chess, known as the “President’s Cup.”

The attached article discusses Mariam’s remarkable chess talents and recounts her appearance at the Denver Chess Club, where she competed against 25 other chess players simultaneously:

Although Mariam’s petition included substantial evidence of her eligibility for the EB1 category, USCIS nonetheless issued a rather lengthy and detailed Request for Evidence. Our office refined the evidence to address the issues raised by USCIS and submitted the response. An approval notice soon followed.

Mariam was positively thrilled to learn that she will be receiving her green card under our country’s most elite and prestigious immigration category. Indeed, U.S. media typically refers to the EB1 category as the ‘Einstein” green card. Congratulations Mariam!

Mariam emailed us the below comments and has authorized us to print them here:

“I had a great experience working with Kenneth Levine. He took my EB1 case and managed to get it approved, when no other immigration lawyer believed the case was approvable. During our first conversation, Kenneth told me that my case would require a lot of work and we would receive a RFE from the USCIS, but he was confident that the case would ultimately be approved. This is exactly what happened. We received a RFE and after he submitted the response, the case was approved. The approval of the case speaks for itself and shows that Kenneth is an outstanding attorney, but I want to emphasize that he does an amazing job at making the whole process smooth for his clients. He promptly responds to emails and patiently answers questions. He truly cares about his clients and does his best to assist them. I would not be able to stay in the United States without his help. I highly recommend him to everyone who requires immigration legal assistance.”

For additional information related to this topic and for advice regarding how to navigate U.S. immigration laws you may contact Kenneth Levine of the law firm of Freeman, Mathis & Gary, LLP at (770-551-2700) or [email protected].