How long does it take to decide an appeal?
Visitors to the Court's website often want to know how long it will take for the Court to decide a particular appeal. The answer to that question depends on what kind of appeal it is.
Discretionary and Interlocutory Applications
If the appeal is either a discretionary or interlocutory application, there are two answers to the question. With respect to discretionary applications, the Court is required by statute (OCGA 5-6-35) to grant, deny or otherwise dispose of the application within 30 days of docketing. With interlocutory applications the Court's ruling must be made within 45 days of docketing (OCGA 5-6-34). This means that unless a discretionary or interlocutory application is granted it will be ruled on within the statutory time limit.
If the application is granted, the applicant is given 10 days from the date of the grant to file a notice of appeal in the trial court where the case originated. The trial court clerk then prepares the record and bills the applicant for the cost of preparing the record for appeal. Once costs have been paid the record is transmitted to the Supreme Court. The appeal is often docketed in the Supreme Court on the same day it is received from the trial court.
The Supreme Court dockets direct appeals 1 to one of three terms of Court - January, April or September. Appeals are submitted to the Court for decision during the term in which they are docketed, and the Court is required by statute to decide an appeal by no later than the end of its second term or the decision of the lower court will be affirmed by operation of law. 2 This means, for instance, that an appeal docketed to the January term must be decided by the end of the April term.
Here it should be noted that the Court dockets direct appeals in advance of the term to which they are assigned. The Court began docketing to the January term for 2004 on September 1, 2003, to the April term on December 22, 2003, and to the September term on May 10, 2004. So a direct appeal docketed early in the January term and not decided until the end of the April term would be pending before the Supreme Court for up to 11 months. The vast majority of appeals, however, do not remain pending before the Court for a full two terms. On average most appeals are decided within 6 months of docketing.
Each year the Court dockets approximately 650 petitions for certiorari to review decisions of the Georgia Court of Appeals. Although there is no statutory time requirement within which these petitions must be granted, denied or otherwise disposed of, most petitions are ruled on within 4 months of docketing. A granted petition for certiorari is granted to the current term and is then subject to the two-term statutory requirement.
Post-Conviction Habeas Corpus Appeals
There is no statutory time requirement within which the Supreme Court must grant, deny, or otherwise dispose of a habeas corpus petition. Moreover, the Court will not rule on a petition until it has received a full and complete record from the trial court. Petitions remain pending in the Supreme Court anywhere from a few months to 2 years. A granted habeas corpus petition is granted to the current term and is then subject to the two-term statutory requirement.
The Supreme Court is called upon to rule on a variety of other types of appeals none of which is subject to the two-term statutory requirement. These include cases involving attorney discipline, judicial qualifications, Bar Examiner and Fitness Board appeals, emergency motions, original jurisdiction petitions, and State Bar Standing Committee Advisory opinions.
1A granted discretionary or interlocutory application is considered a direct appeal when docketed pursuant to a notice of appeal.
2The Supreme Court may extend the term of an appeal but does so very infrequently.