Archive for the ‘government’ Tag

Trinity Hundredmark Appears as Legal Analyst Discussing “Banning the Box”

HundredmarkTrinity Hundredmark recently appeared as a legal analyst on Cavuto on the Fox Business Network.   Trinity discussed an administrative order issued by  Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn “banning the box” on applications for state government jobs. Pursuant to the order, state government job applicants with criminal histories will no longer have to check a box disclosing that they have been convicted of, or pled guilty to, a crime.  Trinity explained that by removing the box, every individual gets a fair opportunity to make a first impression and stand on their job qualifications, at least initially.


Reeves Gets City Council Member’s Ethics Charges Dropped in Dunwoody

English: The Dunwoody Farmhouse

English: The Dunwoody Farmhouse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ATC litigation partner Matt Reeves represented Dunwoody City Council Member Dr. Adrian Bonser, a dentist, in getting ethics charges against her dropped.  This was the first Board of Ethics matter in the new City of Dunwoody, and included approximately six months of proceedings and a four-hour ethics hearing in September.  The dispute centered around complex Georgia Open Meetings Act and Executive Session issues.

Matt was counsel to the Georgia House Judiciary Committee Chairman during the 2008 Georgia General Assembly, when legislation was approved to create the City of Dunwoody.  Matt has handled many governmental litigation matters, in addition to litigating eminent domain, business, real estate and probate cases.

ATC Georgia Capitol Update – Week 3, January 30, 2012   Leave a comment

By: Michael Sullivan, head of ATC’s Zoning, Land Use & Governmental Relations Group

Things are humming along under the Gold Dome, with several pieces of legislation passing out of either the House or Senate last week. Monday, January 30th is the 10th legislative day of the 40 day legislative session and the General Assembly will be in session Monday through Friday this week.


Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee dropped an unexpected political bomb Tuesday afternoon in a Capitol press conference in which he requested that the Transportation Investment Act project list that was unanimously approved by the Regional Roundtable last October (and which is scheduled to be voted on by Metro Atlanta voters on July 31, 2012) be reopened by the General Assembly so that the $689 million currently allocated for a transit connection between Cobb County and MARTA’s Arts Center Station could be reallocated to the I-75/I-575 reversible toll lane project which was postponed by Governor Deal in December.

Chairman Lee had previously been a vocal champion of the transit project, despite vehement criticism from Tea Party activists, the Marietta Daily Journal and others who opposed it. Now Lee says that the I-75/I-575 reversible toll lanes project has always been a higher priority for Cobb and that “we would much rather have the managed lanes” than the transit project. The party line from Lee’s camp is that once the Governor postponed the higher priority I-75/I-575 project, that constituted a “substantial and material change” that altered the way the list would have been put together if it had happened before the final project list was approved. However, many of Lee’s biggest supporters in the Cobb business community were blindsided by the announcement and have been highly critical of the attempted project switcheroo. Many believe that Lee simply got scared that his defense of the transit proposal might cost him his reelection in the Republican primary (also on July 31). The reaction Chairman Lee got at the Atlanta Regional Commission meeting last week was even more critical, with many of his fellow Regional Roundtable members giving him an earful for an action they felt could undermine the credibility of a project list for which they all worked so hard to gain unanimous support. Regional transit advocates also weighed in, since the removal of such a significant project from the project list would tip what is essentially a 50/50 split between transit and roads into a list much more heavily weighted toward roads.

House Speaker David Ralston indicated that he maintains his oft expressed position that the project list (as well as the rest of the Transportation Investment Act) should not be opened back up. Governor Deal’s office reiterated that the Governor had merely postponed the I-75/I-575 project and was continuing to look for other ways to fund that project. The original I-75/I-575 project was a public-private partnership that would have involved granting the winning bidder the right to charge a toll for access to the reversible lanes that company would partially fund. The Governor was primarily concerned about a provision in the proposed project in which the State would have agreed not to construct any major alternate roadways in the I-75/I-575 corridor for at least 60 years (in order to assure the private company of a return on its investment), a condition to which Governor Deal was absolutely unwilling to agree.

Transit governance

The Governor’s Transit Governance Task Force issued its final report On Monday, January 23rd and as had been hinted at for a year, recommended that a reconstituted Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) become the agency to coordinate transit operations within the 13 county Metro Atlanta air quality non-attainment area (all of the 10 counties in the ARC, plus Coweta, Forsyth and Paulding counties). Gwinnett was well-represented on the Task Force by Rep. Donna Sheldon co-chairing the committee and by Gwinnett County Chairman Charlotte Nash (a former GRTA Board member). The recommendations call for a Transit Governance Council (TGC) to be created within GRTA, which would have policy-making and transit oversight authority. The TGC would be made up primarily of local elected officials (1 county chair and 1 mayor from each of the 13 counties, an at-large mayor and two at-large county commissioners, plus the Mayor of Atlanta and 5 GRTA Board members). At-large members would be appointed by the Governor and approved by the sub-group members of the TGC (county chairs would approve the at-large county chair, etc.).

Fifty-four pages of the 67 page Final Report were dedicated to a draft version of the legislation needed to enact the recommendations but no bill has been introduced yet. Most believe that legislative leadership wanted to gauge the reactions to the Report before dropping an actual bill. Many proponents of the Regional Transportation Referendum believe that some form of regional transit governance is critical to passage of the 1-penny sales tax in July. Stay tuned.


Last week, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate jointly unveiled their proposals for modifying the HOPE scholarship & grant program, including:

  • SB 336 – Imposing a cap on eligibility based on family income, children from families with a household income of $140,000 or more would no longer be eligible for HOPE.
  • SB 334 – Eliminating the GPA requirement for eligibility for the Zell Miller Scholarship, which was created as part of last year’s HOPE reforms and which will pay full tuition for Georgia high school Valedictorians and Salutatorians as well as all Georgia high school students graduating with a 3.7 or better GPA and who also score a minimum 1200 on the SAT or 26 on the ACT. Democrats propose to eliminate any SAT or ACT requirement and offer full tuition to anyone graduating in the top 3% of aGeorgiahigh school graduating class.
  • SR 722 – Constitutional amendment to add a student representative to the Board of Regents (the composition of which is set by the Georgia Constitution).
  • SB 335 – Eliminating the GPA requirement which was imposed last year for students receiving the HOPE Grant to attend aGeorgiatechnical college. The HOPE Grant differs from the HOPE Scholarship, in that the HOPE Grant was intended to provide job training for adults seeking to obtain technical training and to increase the knowledge and skills ofGeorgia’s workforce.

The Governor and Republican leadership in both chambers have stated very forcefully that they view any sort of income cap on HOPE Scholarship eligibility as a non-starter. Majority caucus leadership response to the first three items above would indicate that none of these three proposals have much chance of being included in whatever form HOPE reform legislation ultimately takes.

Other legislation of note

HB 718 – Would create a Georgia Capital Acceleration Fund of up to $200 million (financed by the sale of insurance premium tax credits sold by the state over an initial 3 year period). The fund would be administered by a Georgia Capital Acceleration Authority and used as venture capital for Georgia-based start-up companies. STATUS: Pending in the House Insurance Committee.

HB 48 – Would expand Georgia’s existing freeporttax exemptions to make Georgiamore competitive with neighboring states which have no tax on business inventory. STATUS: Passed out of House Ways & Means Committee on February 24, 2011. Passed the full House on March 2, 2011 by a vote of 166-1. Pending in Senate Finance Committee.

HB 705 – Would eliminate the requirement that was imposed on school systems a couple of years ago that 65% of all school system funds must be spent in the classroom. The change was recommended by the K-12 finance commission based on research finding no evidence of the 65% rule having any impact on student achievement (and the reality that at least 40 school systems in Georgiahave already been granted exemptions from the rule). Status: Passed by House Education Committee on January 12th and pending in House Rules Committee.

HB 713 – Bill will delay until 2013 the implementation of the college and career readiness initiatives that were scheduled to go into effect this fall. These initiatives include requiring some level of career awareness education for students in all grades (K-12) as well as the “career pathways” program in which career focused programs of study in at least 16 defined career areas would be created for all high schools and students would follow a course schedule partially focused on the particular career interest they select beginning in 9th grade. Department of Education officials indicated that more time was needed to make sure that these programs are implemented in the right way. Status: Passed by House Education Committee on January 12th and by the full House by a vote of 162-1 on January 24th. Pending in Senate Education & Youth Committee.

SB 33 – Zero-based budgeting for all state agencies. SB 33, sponsored by Gwinnett’s own Sen. David Shafer (and which already passed the full Senate last year) could be the legislative vehicle to finally bring “zero-base” budgeting to Georgia’s budget process, requiring every state program, agency or department to submit a zero-base budget once every four years. A zero-base budget would require every budget to start at zero and for every line item for a particular program or agency to be justified, rather than the current scenario where the starting point for budget discussions is the previous year’s budget amount and the discussion is how much that amount will be raised or lowered. STATUS: Passed the House (by a 135-38 vote) and Senate (by a 48-1 vote) last year. Pending in House-Senate Conference Committee.

SR 20 – Would place a cap on state spending, with increases limited to the previous year’s budget amount plus inflation and population increase (if any). Any excess revenues would be funneled to the Rainy Day Fund. STATUS: Passed the Senate last February (by a vote of 42-7) and is pending in the House Ways & Means Committee.

SB 223 – “Sunset legislation” bill that would create a “Legislative Sunset Advisory Subcommittee” that would regularly assess all state programs, departments and agencies (each agency would be reviewed at least every 8 years) to determine if they should be consolidated or abolished. STATUS: Passed the House (by a 120-56 vote) and Senate (by a 42-9 vote) last year. Pending in House-Senate Conference Committee.

HR 1162 – A Constitutional amendment to allow for charter schools to be approved by the state was introduced on Tuesday by Speaker Pro-Tem Jan Jones. Proposed charter schools would first apply to the local board of education in the jurisdiction in which they are located and if denied, they could then apply to the Georgia Charter Schools Commission for a charter which, if granted, would entitle that school to state and local school funding. This Constitutional amendment is in response to (and would overturn) the May 2011 decision of the Georgia Supreme Court which declared that only local school boards could approve charter schools. STATUS: Introduced on January 24, 2012 and pending in House Education Committee.

HB 86 – Would eliminate all state and local sales and use taxes on energy used in manufacturing. Bill could be expanded to include agriculture and mining. STATUS: Introduced last session and still pending in House Ways & Means Committee.

SB 355 – By Sen. Renee Unterman, would require mandatory reporting of child abuse by anyone (other than clergy and attorneys bound by attorney-client privilege) to report evidence of possible child abuse (currently only seven specifically defined types of professionals, such as teachers, are required to report evidence of child abuse). The bill would also extend the statute of limitations on crimes against children to the victim’s 18th birthday plus 10 years (or plus 15 years, in cases of forcible rape). STATUS: Introduced on January 26, 2012.

The Week Ahead

The current legislative calendar calls for the General Assembly to be in session Monday through Friday this week and Monday through Thursday next week. Image

ATC Partner Given Service Award By Gwinnett County Bar Association   Leave a comment

Andersen, Tate & Carr is proud to announce that one of its partners, Render C. Freeman, was awarded the 2011 Meritorious Service Award from the Gwinnett County Bar Association in Recognition of Outstanding Service to Gwinnett County and the State of Georgia.  In significant part, the award was based on Mr. Freeman’s role as Regional Coordinator for the Gwinnett County High School Mock Trial Competition since 2006.  Before Mr. Freeman filled this role, ATC partner Don Swift served as Regional Coordinator for three years.  To review Mr. Freeman’s full profile, please go to

 Mr. Freeman’s commitment to his community is just one example of our firm’s service philosophy.  In fact, each of our lawyer’s profile pages has a section dedicated to Civic Activities. At Andersen, Tate & Carr, serving our community is an integral part of what we do.

Don’t Let the Government Steal Your Land   1 comment

The United States Supreme Court.

Image via Wikipedia


By R. Matthew Reeves

Gwinnett County and North Georgia have experienced tremendous success and growth, and along with a vibrant economy comes an increased demand for roads, schools, parks, government buildings, power lines, and other public infrastructure.  Our local prosperity has caused real estate values to increase steadily over the years.  Land is at a premium in our area.  The city, county and state government’s need for more property, combined with a corresponding high monetary value of private property in our area, pits the government’s power of condemnation/eminent domain against the right of private property owners to obtain just and adequate compensation when the government takes their land against their will.

Condemnation is a longstanding power of the government to take land that the government deems necessary for the public good.  The government’s power to confiscate private property falls shortly behind the ability to put people in jail and send people off to war, as the government’s strongest powers.  While under almost all circumstances the property owner is defenseless against the government’s decision to take their land, property owners do have the right under the state and federal Constitutions to obtain just and adequate compensation when their land is taken from them.  The condemnation process is a complex process which was largely crafted by the government for the government’s benefit.  Condemnation proceedings, more than almost any other legal proceeding, are filled with numerous deadlines, which could cause you to waive or lose your rights to be compensated if a deadline is missed.  It is important to retain legal counsel early in the condemnation process to ensure that your rights to compensation are adequately protected.  Even if you are extremely experienced and sophisticated in the field of real estate, the condemnation process is a process in which you need a legal advocate. 

While government lawyers fight hard in most condemnation cases to keep the amount of money which the government pays land owners to the lowest level possible, the recent downturn in the economy, with its detrimental impact on government budgets, has created a situation in which the government will fight harder than ever before to keep condemnation payouts low.  Also, while one would think that the number of condemnations would decrease during the current economic downturn, a large percentage of the special purpose local options sales tax (SPLOST) is budgeted for road projects, and the federal government is also a consistent source of road building funds.  Additionally, governments and power companies are relatively recession-proof, have deep pockets, and have long-range budgets which are not as impacted by economic downturns as purely private businesses. 

 There are two main types of condemnation proceedings.  The first is the “declaration of taking” method, which is utilized in most road-related condemnations.  In a road-related condemnation, the government is able to take your land immediately by filing a condemnation lawsuit and depositing an amount of money into the registry of court which the government contends is just and adequate compensation.

 The other type of commendation proceeding, which is employed in most other types of condemnations, such as school, park, government building, or power line condemnations, is the “special master” method.  In the special master method, the government files a condemnation lawsuit, and the judge assigned to the case appoints a special master who is a local attorney familiar with real estate law, to consider evidence presented by the government and the land owner early in the proceeding.  The special master hears evidence from both sides, and determines an initial amount of compensation to the land owner, which the government is required to pay into the registry of court prior to obtaining title to the land which it seeks to condemn.

Very rarely does the declaration of taking or special master method produce a result that is acceptable to landowners.  If you have an attorney who is familiar with the condemnation process, you can preserve the ability to seek more compensation following the initial declaration of taking or special master step in the condemnation process. 

If you have a larger condemnation case, you can proceed to an “interlocutory hearing”, in which three assessors/appraisers will hear evidence presented by both the government and the landowner, and determine an amount of just and adequate compensation.  The three assessor panel is generally comprised of one appraiser selected by the government, one appraiser selected by the landowner, and a third appraiser selected by the two previously selected appraisers.  If the three assessor panel’s decision is acceptable to both the government and the landowner, the case will conclude at that time.  Either party has the right to appeal the three assessor panel’s decision to a jury trial. 

Even if you decide not to participate in a three assessor panel, you are entitled to a right to a jury trial in most condemnation cases, as long as you work with your attorney to preserve your right to a jury trial.  Between when the condemnation case is filed, and the jury trial, there is a “discovery process”, which usually last six months or more, in which the government and the landowner exchange documents and conduct depositions of their witnesses. 

 The way that you, as the landowner, prove the amount of just and adequate compensation, is to present layperson and expert witness testimony that your land was valuable before the taking, and that the taking has left you with a piece of property that is diminished in value.  You also cross-examine the government’s witnesses, who almost always allege that your land had a low value prior to the taking and/or that the land has not been damaged by the condemnation.  In most cases, it is necessary to retain a real estate appraiser and engineer who are capable of testifying at trial in your favor, in order to establish a credible case for just and adequate compensation.  Based on the circumstances of your case, it might be advisable to enlist other experts, such as business valuation experts, surveyors, or building/development expert witnesses. 

With all of the procedural and proof hurdles outlined above, it is easy to envision a scenario in which you, as the land owner, end up with unjust and inadequate compensation in a condemnation case.  As a result of the pro-government condemnation process traditionally in Georgia, and in response to the United States Supreme Court’s Kelo v. City of New London decision in 2005, the Georgia General Assembly enacted the Landowner’s Bill of Rights in 2006.  This recent condemnation reform bill was sponsored by Chairman Wendall Willard of the House Judiciary Committee, for whom I served as legal counsel during the 2008 Georgia General Assembly, and I was able to learn more about this new bill through representing Chairman Willard recently.

            The following are recent reforms enacted as part of the Landowners Bill of Rights:

  • The government is prohibited from using the power of eminent domain for private development purposes;
  • Landowners are now able to participate in the selection of the special master in special master proceedings.  Previously, the condemnor’s attorney nominated the special master, who was often the lawyer for another governmental entity, who predictably would award a low amount to the landowner;
  • The government is now required to offer prior the full amount its appraiser believes is just and adequate compensation, when a fee simple interest is being acquired, prior to when a condemnation lawsuit is filed.  Previously, and still with easements or property interests short of a fee simple interest, the government would frequently only offer a portion of the land’s appraised value;
  • When a condemnation displaces you from your home, business, or farm, the government is required to give you 90 days written notice before you are forced to be relocated, and only after the money is paid to you;
  • Georgia law now places the burden of proof upon the government to show that a condemnation is necessary for a public use;
  • Georgia law now explicitly provides for relocation expenses when you are displaced from your home, business, or farm due to a condemnation.  Previously, relocation compensation was only required under limited circumstances, which were governed by federal law.
  • Other procedural hurdles for the government to jump through have been enacted, such as increased notice to landowners prior to a condemnation.

While the Georgia General Assembly has attempted to level the playing field in condemnation cases, landowners still have to fight to pursue just and adequate compensation when their land is condemned.  There are many traps for the unwary which you can avoid by enlisting an attorney as soon as you learn that a condemnation is on the horizon.


Do you want to use this blog article?

You may, as long as you include this complete bio with it:

Matt Reeves is a partner in the litigation group at Andersen, Tate & Carr, P.C., a Gwinnett County, Georgia law firm.  He focuses his practice on real estate, business and probate litigation.



Copyright © 2010, R. Matthew Reeves & Andersen, Tate & Carr, P.C.

$295,000 for Teenage Pedestrian   1 comment

On December 2, 2008, Jane Doe (a 12 year-old minor) exited her school bus and was walking home when the Defendant pulled into the neighborhood in an SUV and negligently ran her over, fracturing her leg in two places.  Miss Doe’s medical expenses were over $25,000 and her plastic surgeon estimated that an additional surgery would be necessary and will cost approximately $10,000.  But this case was not about $25,000 in medical expenses; it was not even about $35,000 in medical expenses.  The fractures were bad and painful and the experience was horrifying for Miss Doe, but she recovered well and did not appear to be facing any permanent orthopaedic problems.  So, the case wasn’t even about permanent physical disability. 

The most upsetting aspect of this case was that the Defendant’s tire badly mangled the skin and tissue of Miss Doe’s ankle.  This was almost a de-gloving injury.  Consequently, Miss Doe has permanent burn-like scarring on her leg.  This might have been a different case if the Defendant had permanently scarred a little boy.  At least a little boy could make the best of a bad situation by making up crazy stories about the scar. As that boy grew into manhood, the scar would likely be obscured by leg hair, but, even if it remained conspicuous, he could still deal with it more readily than a woman by joking and making up funny stories about it. His scar might even be perceived by some as cool.

Miss Doe, on the other hand, does not (and will never) have this option.  Instead, she will always be somewhat self conscious about this scar.  The scar is not easily concealed, and, in fact, affects a part of Miss Doe’s anatomy that is strongly associated with her femininity and attractiveness. Miss Doe has a strong family, and they will help her to come to peace with her scar, but, throughout her life, people will notice it, perhaps treat her a little differently because of it, and maybe even be so bold as to ask her what happened.  Years from now, when the Defendant has long forgotten about this incident, Miss Doe will still be dealing with it on a daily basis.

The insurance adjuster assigned to handle Miss Doe’s claim had previously worked with attorney Render Freeman and knew of Mr. Freeman’s ability to succeed in front of a jury.  Following Mr. Freeman’s investigation and aggressive pre-suit negotiations, the insurance carrier agreed to pay $295,000 to settle the claim.  This money will enable Miss Doe to undergo any necessary scar-revision surgeries and will pay for her college education.  Mr. Freeman was very proud to represent this nice young lady and gratified by the quick result.

Michael Sullivan Assists in Transportation Bill Passage   Leave a comment


Image via Wikipedia

Our own Michael Sullivan , head of our government relations group at ATC, assisted in the push for the passage of Georgia’s recent historic transportation funding bill which passed by overwhelming bi-partisan margins of 141 to 29 in the House, and 43 to 8 in the Senate.

The legislation creates 12 regional districts across the state (including Gwinnett in the ARC region). “Regional roundtables” comprised of local elected officials (Chairs and a Mayor from each county) will develop a project list to be voted on by citizens in the 2012 general primary and be funded by a 1 penny sales tax. The bill also provides some temporary funding/relief flexibility for MARTA and provides capital operations and maintenance for new projects added by MARTA and other transit.

But don’t just take our word for it, read more about it at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce’s website.

%d bloggers like this: