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Atlanta, November 21, 2011 – Chief Justice Carol Hunstein announced today that the Supreme Court of Georgia has amended two of its court rules. The changes affect the deadlines for when documents sent by mail or commercial carrier are considered officially filed and when “motions for reconsideration” must be received.

By statute and court rule, litigants are required to meet numerous filing deadlines. If they fail to meet them, their case can be dismissed on procedural grounds.

Previously, under Rule 13 of the Rules of the Supreme Court, documents by regular mail were deemed officially filed at the state Supreme Court on the date they were received by the Clerk’s office. The exception was that if the documents were sent by registered or certified mail or for overnight delivery, they were considered filed on the date a litigant gave them to the U.S. Post Office or commercial delivery company for delivery to the Court.

Under the change to Rule 13, documents sent by priority, express or first class mail now will be considered filed the date they are officially postmarked by the U.S. Postal Service, regardless of when they arrive. “This is to the advantage of people still using the mail,” said Tee Barnes, Clerk of the Supreme Court of Georgia. “When the U.S. Post Office puts its official postmark on it, we’re going to consider it received that day.”

Documents sent through a third-party commercial carrier that are marked for delivery to the Clerk within three days also will be deemed filed on the date they were delivered to the carrier.

Another important change to Rule 13 is the addition of a “mailbox rule” for prisoners who are representing themselves. With the change, documents sent by “pro se” prisoners will be considered filed in the state Supreme Court on the date the prisoner delivers them to prison officials for mailing.

“Prisoners representing themselves don’t have any control over the mail once they give it to prison officials,” Barnes said. The federal courts and U.S. Supreme Court have similar prisoner mailbox filing rules.

While changes in Rule 13 allow for more flexibility in filing documents, that is not the case with changes in the rule affecting motions for reconsideration (MFRs), in which litigants ask the high court to reconsider a decision it has made in a case.

The change to Rule 27 requires MFRs to be physically received at the Court within 10 days of the Court’s decision to be considered timely. The Georgia Court of Appeals has a similar rule. Under the old rule, an MFR sent by certified or registered mail or for overnight delivery was deemed timely filed on the date of transmission. That is no longer true unless it arrives by the due date.

“The Court was running into problems having enough time to fully consider motions for reconsideration, especially those filed at the end of a court term,” Barnes said.

The changes announced today only apply to filings in the Georgia Supreme Court and are not being imposed on any other class of court. The rules will take effect on Jan. 1, 2012.

Read the order establishing the new rules here.