Case v. GeorgiaAnnotate this Case
In 2011, Charles Case entered a negotiated guilty plea to aggravated assault and simple battery against his niece to resolve an original charge of child molestation. He did not appeal. After being directed to register as a sex offender, in 2014, aided by new counsel, Case filed a habeas petition alleging that his guilty plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered and that his plea counsel provided ineffective assistance. In early 2015, the habeas court entered an order scheduling a final hearing, which was set for February 24, 2015. However, after neither Case nor his counsel appeared at the final hearing, the habeas court entered an order dismissing the petition for want of prosecution and, in the alternative, denying the petition on the merits. Case moved to set aside, asserting that his habeas counsel had not received notice of the final habeas hearing and first became aware of the hearing when counsel received the final order denying habeas relief. The habeas court denied the motion and Case filed an application for discretionary appeal without filing a notice of appeal. Case did not follow the required procedures for petitioners to appeal adverse “final orders” in habeas cases. The Georgia Supreme Court granted Case’s application to appeal to resolve: (1) whether a habeas petitioner was required to follow the procedures of OCGA 9-14-52 (b) to appeal an order denying a motion to set aside a final order denying habeas relief, or instead must follow the procedures of OCGA 5-6-35 (a) (8); and (2) whether the habeas court erred in denying Case’s motion to set aside the final order denying his habeas petition. The Supreme Court concluded that this appeal was properly before the Court. However, the petitioner’s motion here was better classified as a motion to set aside to correct a clerical error pursuant to OCGA 9-11-60 (g), which entitled Case to a direct, rather than a motion to set aside based on an amendable defect appearing on the face of the record pursuant to OCGA 9-11-60 (d) (3) (which would have needed to come by application). Additionally, the Court found that in this case, the habeas court did not properly consider all the relevant circumstances in reaching its decision to deny Case’s motion to set aside the court’s order on his petition for habeas corpus relief. Accordingly, the Court vacated the decision on Case’s motion and remanded this case for further proceedings.