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Appellant appealed the trail court's dismissal of her action contesting the outcome of the August 10, 2010 Stewart County primary election in which she was an unsuccessful candidate. Appellant filed the election contest on August 18, the general election took place on November 2, and the candidate who defeated appellant in the primary was certified as the winner of the election. The court held that appellant's appeal was moot where an election contest challenging the results of a primary election became moot after the general election had taken place and where appellant did not quickly seek statutorily-sanctioned supersedeas and/or an expedited appeal.Receive FREE Daily Opinion Summaries by Email
In the Supreme Court of Georgia
May 16, 2011
S11A0956. HILLIARD v. BALDWIN et al.
Appellant Mitzi Peek Hilliard appeals the trial court’s dismissal of her action
contesting the outcome of the August 10, 2010, Stewart County primary election in
which she was an unsuccessful candidate. We conclude the challenge to the primary
election is now moot and dismiss the appeal.
Appellant filed the election contest on August 18 and a judge was appointed
to hear and decide the election contest. See OCGA § 21-2-523 (c-e). The record
appendix contains the transcripts of evidentiary hearings conducted on September 30,
October 22, and December 28, 2010, and the trial court’s final judgment refers to a
fourth hearing having been held on September 2. The general election took place on
November 2 and the candidate who defeated appellant in the primary was certified
as the winner of the general election.
Statutes providing for election contests are premised on the recognition
that election-related appeals must be timely considered. Jordan v. Cook,
277 Ga. 155, 156 (587 SE2d 52) (2003). In fact, OCGA § 21-2-528
allows a request for extraordinary relief from this Court even prior to the
filing of a notice of appeal or the docketing of the record in an appeal
from a final determination in an election contest. Consequently, the party
challenging either a primary or general election has the legal mechanism
to effect the threshold duty to act with dispatch. Jordan v. Cook, supra
at 156. Certainly, there are instances in which last minute requests for
extraordinary relief in election contests are unavoidable. But, this case
is not one of them. The general election has been held[, and appellant
never sought emergency relief from this Court]. This Court must
conclude that the policy considerations underlying the mootness doctrine
apply to this election challenge. Jordan v. Cook, supra at 156. This case
does not involve a question of the constitutionality of any statute or the
interpretation of a constitutional provision. Compare Poythress v. Moses,
250 Ga. 452 (298 SE2d 480) (1983). What is more, while the issues
raised by [appellant] might be capable of repetition in another case, such
issues would be reviewable upon the timely and proper invocation of the
applicable provisions of the Election Code. Caplan v. Hattaway, 269 Ga.
582, 583 (501 SE2d 195) (1998). Important policy considerations
mandate that litigants should make every effort to dispose of election
disputes with dispatch and that the courts should not interfere with the
orderly process of elections after the general election has been held. Id.
McCreary v. Martin, 281 Ga. 668, 670 (642 SE2d 80) (2007). Since an election
contest challenging the results of a primary election becomes moot after the general
election has taken place (Payne v. Chatman, 267 Ga. 873, 875 (485 SE2d 723)
(1997)), and when the plaintiff does not quickly seek statutorily-sanctioned
supersedeas and/or an expedited appeal1 (see e.g., McCreary v. Martin, supra, 281
Ga. at 670; Davis v. Dunn, S09A2056 (order of dismissal issued 10/27/09)), the
appeal is dismissed as moot. Compare Scoggins v. Collins, 288 Ga. 26 (701 SE2d
134)(2010) (where this Court addressed the merits of the election contest since the
plaintiff had sought, albeit unsuccessfully, supersedeas and an expedited appeal).
Appeal dismissed. All the Justices concur.
Hillard did not seek appellate review of the trial court’s verbal decision on October 25
declining to stay the Nov. 2 general election. At the Oct. 22 hearing, Hilliard’s attorney stated
that the election need not be enjoined since certification of the election results could be enjoined.
There is no evidence in the record appendix that Hilliard sought to enjoin the certification of the