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Georgiacarry.Org, Inc. v. Bordeaux

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Fourth Division

October 22, 2019

GEORGIACARRY.ORG, INC. et al.
v.
BORDEAUX et al.

          DOYLE, P. J., COOMER and MARKLE, JJ.

          COOMER, JUDGE.

         GeorgiaCarry.Org, Inc. ("GeorgiaCarry"), William Theodore Moore, III, and Shane Montgomery appeal the dismissal of their complaint against Thomas C. Bordeaux, Jr., a Chatham County probate court judge, seeking a writ of mandamus and declaratory relief regarding the issuance of weapons carry licenses. On appeal, GeorgiaCarry, Moore, and Montgomery contend that the trial court erred in dismissing the case by ruling that (1) the claims of Moore and Montgomery were moot; (2) GeorgiaCarry does not have standing; (3) the claims against Bordeaux in his official capacity are barred by sovereign immunity; and (4) the claims against Bordeaux in his individual capacity are barred by judicial immunity. Because judicial immunity does not bar claims for declaratory relief, we reverse.

         "We review a trial court's grant of a motion to dismiss under a de novo standard. A motion to dismiss may be granted only where a complaint shows with certainty that the plaintiff would not be entitled to relief under any state of facts that could be proven in support of his claim." Viola E. Buford Family Ltd. Partnership v. Britt, 283 Ga.App. 676, 676 (642 S.E.2d 383) (2007) (citations and punctuation omitted).

         On April 27, 2018, the appellants filed a complaint seeking a writ of mandamus and declaratory relief against Bordeaux in the Superior Court of Chatham County. In the complaint, the appellants alleged that the maximum amount of time allowed by law for processing a weapons carry license application is 35 days; that Bordeaux routinely does not process weapons carry licenses for GeorgiaCarry's members and other residents of Chatham County within 35 days of the filing of the application or within 10 days of receiving the background report; and that by failing to process weapons carry licenses within the time allowed by law, Bordeaux is violating OCGA § 16-11-129 (d) (4). The appellants further alleged that on October 13, 2017, Montgomery applied for a weapons carry license with Bordeaux; that on February 2, 2018, Moore applied for a weapons carry license with Bordeaux; and that neither Moore nor Montgomery had been issued weapons carry licenses at the time the complaint was filed. However, Moore and Montgomery both received their weapons carry licenses at some point before August 7, 2018.

         Bordeaux filed a motion to dismiss. After a hearing on the motion on August 7, 2018, the trial court dismissed the case. This appeal followed.

         1. The appellants contend that the trial court erred by ruling that the claims of Moore and Montgomery were moot because they had received their weapons carry licenses. We find no error.

         The trial court found that the appellants' request for a writ of mandamus was moot because Moore and Montgomery had received their weapons carry licenses. However, the trial court did not find that the appellants' request for a declaratory judgment was moot.

Mandamus is an extraordinary remedy to compel a public officer to perform a required duty when there is no other adequate legal remedy. . . . In general, mandamus relief is not available to compel officials to follow a general course of conduct, perform a discretionary act, or undo a past act. Furthermore, once the public duty has occurred, the prayer that mandamus be issued compelling a public officer to perform that public duty is moot.

R.A.F. v. Robinson, 286 Ga. 644, 646 (1) (690 S.E.2d 372) (2010) (citations and punctuation omitted).

         Although it is not clear from the record when Moore and Montgomery received their weapons carry licenses, the parties do not dispute that Moore and Montgomery received their weapons carry licenses at some point before the August 7, 2018 hearing in this case. Consequently, we agree with the trial court that the appellants' request for a writ of mandamus is now moot as it pertains to Moore and Montgomery. See GeorgiaCarry.Org, Inc. v. James, 298 Ga. 420, 424 (2) (782 S.E.2d 284) (2016) (mandamus action moot from the outset as to weapons license holder who received a new weapons license before the filing of the mandamus action); see also Moore v. Cranford, 285 Ga.App. 666, 666 (647 S.E.2d 295) (2007) (mandamus action was rendered moot because probate court issued firearms license).

         The appellants argue that Moore and Montgomery still have an interest in the process and the timely issuance of weapons carry licenses because a weapons carry license is only valid for five years, and Moore and Montgomery will have to apply again. The appellants also invoke "the well-established but narrow exception to mootness for disputes that are capable of repetition, yet evading review." Owens v. Hill, 295 Ga. 302, 305 (1) (758 S.E.2d 794) (2014) (citation and punctuation omitted). If the trial court had found that the appellants' claim for declaratory relief was moot, this argument might be persuasive. See Moore, 285 Ga.App. at 666 (although mandamus action was moot because firearms license applicant received his firearms license, superior court found that the "'issue is one that is capable of repetition and will evade review'" and did not dismiss claim for declaratory and injunctive relief). Because the trial court did not find that the appellants' request for a declaratory judgment is moot, the dispute will not evade review.

         2. The appellants next contend that the trial court erred by finding that GeorgiaCarry did not have standing. This argument has no merit.

         In its order dated September 4, 2018, the trial court ruled that "GeorgiaCarry.Org is not an authorized person to seek a writ of mandamus." The trial court made no finding as to whether GeorgiaCarry had standing to seek a declaratory judgment. On appeal, the appellants argue that GeorgiaCarry is seeking a declaratory judgment, not a writ of mandamus. To the extent our holding in Division 4 reinstates the declaratory judgment action, the question of GeorgiaCarry's standing to bring that action is not ripe for our determination. The appellants contend that only Moore and Montgomery are seeking a writ of mandamus in the present case. Consequently, ...


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