McFADDEN, P. J., RICKMAN and MARKLE, JJ.
MCFADDEN, PRESIDING JUDGE.
appeal challenges a trial court order granting summary
judgment to the members of a county board of education on the
basis of sovereign immunity. Because the trial court
correctly ruled that the claims against the board members are
barred by sovereign immunity, we affirm.
rules of this court require that in an appellant's brief,
"[r]ecord and transcript citations shall be to the
volume or part of the record or transcript and the page
numbers that appear on the appellate record or transcript as
sent from the trial court." Court of Appeals Rule 25 (a)
(1). The appellant's brief in this case, however, does
not contain cites to the appropriate volumes or parts of the
appellate record, and instead references trial court case
numbers and records. The appellees' brief adopts the
appellant's faulty method and likewise fails to make
appropriate citations to the appellate record. See Court of
Appeals Rules 25 (b) (1) & (c) (2).
rules of this court "were created, not to provide an
obstacle, but to aid parties in presenting their arguments in
a manner most likely to be fully and efficiently comprehended
by this court." In re Estate of Russell, 347
Ga.App. 258, 259 (1) (819 S.E.2d 68) (2018) (citation and
punctuation omitted). "[B]riefs that fail to provide
proper citations can hinder this [c]ourt's consideration
of the parties' arguments on appeal." May v. S.
E. GA Ford, Inc., 344 Ga.App. 459 n. 1 (811 S.E.2d 14)
(2018) (citations and punctuation omitted). And such
deficient briefs "are not merely an inconvenience [but
may constitute] grounds for refusing to consider a
party's contentions." Id. (citation and
punctuation omitted). "While we will nonetheless review
[the] claims of error to the extent we are able to ascertain
them, [the parties] will not be granted relief should we err
in construing [their] nonconforming appellate brief[s]."
In re Estate of Russell, supra (citation and
Facts and procedural posture.
April 2009, Henry Cook, a member of the Randolph County Board
of Education, filed an action against three other board
members - Don Smith, Dymple McDonald, and James Mock
(collectively "the board members"). Cook sought
injunctive relief regarding the board members' selection
of Mock to serve as board chairman prior to the expiration of
Cook's term in that role. The trial court subsequently
held Cook in contempt for violating a court order and also
found that a local law at issue in the case, which concerned
procedures for selecting the board chairperson, was not
unconstitutional. Cook appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court,
which affirmed the trial court's contempt ruling but
reversed its constitutionality ruling, finding that the law
in question was not constitutional as applied to Cook. See
Cook v. Smith, 288 Ga. 409 (705 S.E.2d 847) (2010).
return of the case to the trial court, Cook sought, among
other things, to enforce a purported settlement of the case
allegedly voted on by the board and to recover attorney fees.
The board members moved for summary judgment on, among other
grounds, the doctrine of sovereign immunity. In the meantime,
Smith and McDonald had filed their own lawsuit against the
Randolph County School District, seeking certain injunctive
relief. Although Cook was not a party to that lawsuit, the
trial court nevertheless consolidated it with Cook's
action against the board members. The trial court did not
rule on the board members' motion for summary judgment in
Cook's case, but denied Cook's claims to enforce the
purported board vote of settlement and for attorney fees, and
ordered certain relief in the consolidated lawsuit to which
Cook was not a party.
appealed to this court, and we transferred the case to our
Supreme Court on the basis that it involves mandamus relief
which was, at that time, within the sole jurisdiction of the
Supreme Court. The Supreme Court transferred the case
back to this court, finding that it does not involve mandamus
and instead involves injunctive relief. This court then
remanded the case to the trial court, noting that the trial
court had not ruled on the issue of sovereign immunity raised
by the board members and directing the trial court to hold a
hearing and rule on whether sovereign immunity bars
Cook's claims. After a hearing, the trial court found
that the claims are barred by sovereign immunity and granted
summary judgment to the board members. Cook appeals.
contends that the trial court erred in granting summary
judgment to the board members. We disagree.
against public employees in their official capacities are in
reality suits against the state and, therefore, involve
sovereign immunity." Cameron v. Lang, 274 Ga.
122, 126 (3) (549 S.E.2d 341) (2001) (citations and
punctuation omitted). "Simply put, the constitutional
doctrine of sovereign immunity forbids our courts [from]
entertain[ing] a lawsuit against the [s]tate without its
consent." Lathrop v. Deal, 301 Ga. 408 (801
S.E.2d 867) (2017). Accord Cameron, supra (sovereign
immunity protects all levels of government from legal action
unless the immunity has been waived).
The Georgia Constitution provides: "Except as
specifically provided in this Paragraph, sovereign immunity
extends to the state and all of its departments and agencies.
The sovereign immunity of the state and its departments and
agencies can only be waived by an Act of the General Assembly
which specifically provides that sovereign immunity is
thereby waived and the extent of such waiver." Ga.
Const. Art. I, Sec. II, Par. IX (e). This [c]ourt has
repeatedly ruled on the scope of this provision. The plain
and unambiguous text of the 1991 ...