Georgia appeals court: Fulton County voters do have standing to challenge election results

by WorldTribune Staff, May 14, 2023

Voters in Fulton County have standing to sue their local government to unseal ballots from the 2020 election, the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday.

Superior Court Judge Brian Amero had previously dismissed the case in October 2021 based on the legal principle of standing, finding that the plaintiffs hadn’t suffered a specific injury that would give them a right to sue.

But the Court of Appeals vacated Amero’s ruling based on a recent Georgia Supreme Court case that concluded Georgians can have standing to sue if they’re “community stakeholders” who suffer an injury when local governments fail to follow the law.

The appellate court sent the case back to a judge to decide whether to allow an outside review of Fulton County’s 147,000 original absentee ballots.

In December 2022, the state Supreme Court returned the case Caroline Jeffords v. Fulton County to the Court of Appeals for reconsideration in light of the ruling in Sons of Confederate Veterans v. Henry County Board of Commissioners which “has proven pivotal for determining who has standing when a plaintiff brings a lawsuit against a government official,” Courtney Kramer, a lawyer who formerly worked with President Donald Trump’s legal team, reported for Insider Advantage on Friday.

The Court of Appeals quoted the Supreme Court’s opinion, stating:

“Georgia has long recognized that members of a community, whether as citizens, residents, taxpayers, or voters, may be injured when their local government fails to follow the law. Government at all levels has a legal duty to follow the law; a local government owes that legal duty to its citizens, residents, taxpayers, or voters (i.e., community stakeholders), and the violation of that legal duty constitutes an injury that our case law has recognized as conferring standing to those community stakeholders, even if the plaintiff suffered no individualized injury.”

Bob Cheeley, counsel for Jeffords, issued the following statement:

“This decision by a three-judge panel of the Georgia Court of Appeals represents a landmark victory for transparency and accountability in government. This decision represents common sense and is the first time in our country’s history that an appeals court has recognized that citizens of a state have standing to question important governmental functions such as the manner in which votes are processed and tabulated.

“In this case, on May 21, 2021, the trial judge ordered that the plaintiff had established prima facia proof of irregularities by Fulton County Elections staff which warranted unsealing of ballots in connection with the November 2020 election. Before that examination of ballots could occur, however, the judge granted Fulton’s motion to dismiss which urged that plaintiff did not have standing which led to this appeal by Caroline Jeffords to the Georgia Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

“This decision finally puts an end to the arrogance of government officials who believe that the people are subservient to government. Now, government is put where our founders intended it to be-subservient to the people!”

Garland Favorito of the group VoterGA, said he hopes to be able to find suspicious-looking ballots — with perfectly filled-in ovals and a lack of fold marks — that Republican vote-counters said they saw during a statewide audit.

“It is critical that Georgians quickly know how many counterfeit ballots were included in the 2020 Fulton election results so we can implement more fraud protection measures prior to the next election,” Favorito said. “If there is nothing to hide, all involved should be willing to show us the ballots.”

Kramer noted: “Standing has long been a hurdle not only in recent election-related lawsuits but can quickly bring any lawsuit to an end when establishing if a plaintiff has in fact been injured by a certain action taken by someone or some entity, especially government officials. The delay in ruling on the issue of standing has hindered the ability for voters to inquire into and reveal the legitimacy of election results.”

By highlighting the fact that “injury need not always be individualized; sometimes it can be a generalized grievance shared by community members, especially other residents, taxpayers, voters, or citizens,” Judge Christopher McFadden has “now paved the way for ultimate transparency in cases where standing was once at issue regarding suing government officials. Undoubtedly, it is clear that voters have standing,” Kramer wrote.

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