Georgia Ass'n of Professional Servers v. JacksonAnnotate this Case
The Georgia Association of Professional Process Servers and several of its members, private process servers, (collectively, “the Association”) filed this action seeking mandamus, declaratory judgment, and injunctive relief against the sheriffs of Fulton, Cobb, Gwinnett, DeKalb, Clayton, Forsyth, and Paulding Counties (collectively, “the Sheriffs”). In its petition, the Association alleged that the Sheriffs conspired to thwart the use of certified process servers statewide, and have wrongfully failed to consider members’ individual petitions to become certified process servers under OCGA 9-11-4.1, thus rendering the Code section null and of no effect. The Sheriffs responded that the Code section explicitly gave them the power to make a threshold decision whether to permit certified process servers to serve process in their counties. After discovery, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Sheriffs and denied the Association’s motion, finding that under a plain reading of the Code section, the Association was not entitled to any of the relief sought. After review, the Georgia Supreme Court found the trial court should not have ruled on the merits of the Association’s claims for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Sheriffs in their official capacities, because those claims are barred by sovereign immunity. Accordingly, the Court vacated that portion of the trial court’s order and remanded for dismissal. Because the trial court correctly granted summary judgment as to the Association’s other claims, the Supreme Court affirmed the remainder of the trial court’s order.