Cowen v. Clayton CountyAnnotate this Case
Linda Cowen, a Clayton County State Court judge since December 1995, filed a petition for a writ of mandamus, in which she sought, among other things, over $120,000 in back pay from Clayton County and several of its county commissioners1 for allegedly violating Ga. Const. of 1983, Art. VI, Sec. VII, Par. V. Cowen claimed that the County had been improperly calculating her compensation under County Ordinance 30-4 (the “Supplemental Ordinance”) and Local Law 2006 Ga. Laws 926 passed by the General Assembly (the “Local Law”), which, she alleged, resulted in an illegal reduction in her overall compensation each year between 2007 and 2017. She also alleged that, when the County repealed the Supplemental Ordinance effective December 20, 2016, the County, once again, illegally reduced her compensation in violation of Ga. Const. of 1983, Art. VI, Sec. VII, Par. V. The trial court rejected all of Cowen’s claims, concluding in part that: (1) Cowen’s mandamus action was barred by gross laches; (2) even if the mandamus action was not barred, it was subject to dismissal because mandamus was not an appropriate vehicle through which Cowen could seek her back pay; and (3) even if mandamus were an appropriate vehicle, the mandamus action was without merit. Cowen appealed. The Georgia Supreme Court concluded, after review, that: (1) some, but not all, of Cowen’s claims for back pay were time barred; and (2) the trial court erred in concluding that mandamus was not an appropriate vehicle here; but (3) the trial court properly denied the claim for mandamus. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed.