Laws affecting cities are made year-round in the courts as well as in the General Assembly. GMA’s Legal Advocacy Program provides support and assistance to member municipalities in a limited number of cases where the outcome could have major significance to cities statewide. The Legal Advocacy Program has two components. The first is providing monetary assistance to a municipality for legal fees, court costs, and expenses directly related to litigation on a novel and important question of law, the favorable decision of which could provide a substantial benefit for a significant number of Georgia municipalities. The second is the filing of amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs in state and federal appellate courts and, very rarely, in trial courts.
Legal Defense Fund
The GMA Legal Defense Fund is governed by a 7-member board consisting of the president and vice-president of the GMA City Attorneys Section, the GMA Executive Director, the GMA General Counsel, and three members of the Executive Committee appointed by the GMA President in consultation with the GMA Executive Director. Except for the GMA staff serving on the board, all appointments are for a one- year period and until a successor takes office. The Legal Defense Fund board shall meet as needed on call of the GMA Executive Director and may meet by teleconference.
The criteria that will be used by the board in evaluating a request for assistance from the GMA Legal Defense Fund include all of the criteria for consideration for amicus assistance and include, but are not limited to, the following:
Does this litigation or controversy involve important and novel questions of law, the favorable decision of which could provide a substantial benefit for a significant number of Georgia municipalities?
Is the full and vigorous litigating of such questions of law hampered by the limited resources of the requesting municipality or the extraordinary cost to the requesting municipality?
Matters eligible for consideration for funding by the GMA Legal Defense Fund must be significantly more substantial in importance and of more impact statewide than matters eligible for consideration for amicus assistance. GMA Legal Defense Fund assistance is not available for ordinary litigation or as a substitute for insurance or self-insurance coverage.
A request for Legal Defense Fund assistance may be submitted to GMA by an attorney representing a Georgia municipality, jointly signed by the chief elected official in accordance with powers granted under the city’s charter. All requests shall be in writing addressed to the Executive Director on a form provided by GMA and will explain the factual background and procedural posture of the case or controversy, the legal issues raised and the statewide municipal significance of one or more of those issues. All relevant pleadings, briefs, orders and decisions must be submitted with the written request.
The GMA Legal Defense Fund will be established by an initial direct allocation of funds from GMA and ongoing support from GMA membership dues. Establishment and support of the GMA Legal Defense Fund provides municipalities with assurance that novel and important legal issues impacting municipal authority, municipal revenues or expenditures, or judicial deference to legislative or policy decisions by municipal governing bodies are vigorously and competently litigated despite the limited resources of any individual municipality.
Financial assistance received from the Legal Defense Fund may only be used to pay for legal fees, court costs, and expenses directly related to litigation and cannot be used to pay for damages or settlement, for court awarded fees, charges or costs, or for more than one-third of the total cost of litigating the case for which it is provided. The receipt of financial assistance from the Legal Defense Fund is not intended to and shall not interfere with the independence of professional judgment of the attorney representing the recipient municipality and shall not interfere with such attorney-client relationship.
A request for amicus participation may be submitted to GMA by an attorney representing any party or initiated by GMA’s General Counsel. If a request for amicus participation in litigation involving a member city comes from someone other than that member city, the mayor and city attorney of the member city will be notified of such request. All requests shall be in writing addressed to the General Counsel on a form provided by GMA and should explain the factual background and procedural posture of the case, the legal issues raised and the statewide municipal significance of one or more of those issues. Applicable orders, decisions and petitions for review should be part of the initial submission. The requestor should be prepared to provide additional relevant pleadings, briefs, and other case documents on request.
Because the purpose of an amicus curiae brief is to provide the court with additional legal arguments, policy considerations, or historical context to aid in its decision-making, a request for an amicus brief needs to identify these. It is not GMA’s practice to simply file “me too” briefs rehashing arguments and ideas already thoroughly and persuasively presented to the court. Criteria that will be used by GMA to determine whether to file an amicus brief include, but are not limited to, the following:
Does the case have important statewide implications for Georgia municipalities?
Do all or most Georgia cities have a common interest in the same outcome on the issues to be addressed in the amicus brief?
Would the decision in this case serve as persuasive precedent in similar future controversies for Georgia cities?
What is the likelihood that GMA’s participation would have a positive effect on the outcome of the case?
Does the case address a central municipal value or is it less directly related to common interests of municipal governments in Georgia?
Is there a reasonable likelihood of success?
Do the facts and preceding litigation provide a likelihood of success?
Is there sufficient time to prepare a quality brief?
Review of a request and case documents, legal research, and brief drafting must be worked in to existing Legal Department workload and can take several months so it is critical that any request be received as early as possible.
GMA prefers that amicus briefs submitted bearing GMA’s name be prepared by GMA Legal Department attorneys when possible. However, competing demands on the Legal Department attorneys may make it difficult or impossible in some instances to devote the time necessary to prepare a product of high quality in the time available. (Of the five GMA staff attorneys, two work almost exclusively on retirement plan matters and one focuses on life and health plan issues as well as information privacy and security thus leaving two to field most amicus requests.) A requestor may volunteer an appropriate attorney to draft the amicus brief or request that GMA sign on to a brief being filed by organizations whose interests align with those of Georgia cities on the legal questions presented. As appropriate, GMA attorneys may approach other organizations with aligned interests on the pertinent legal questions to sign on to a GMA-drafted or sponsored amicus brief. If it is impractical or not possible for GMA Legal Department attorneys to prepare the brief, the GMA Executive Director may authorize the engagement of outside counsel. The GMA General Counsel shall advise outside counsel on the desired content of the GMA amicus brief and shall review the final draft before filing.
Applicable to Both Amicus and Legal Defense Fund Requests
To ensure that communications, both written and oral, among GMA, the amicus/Legal Defense Fund requestor, and any proper third parties remain confidential and privileged to the greatest extent practicable, GMA requires amicus/Legal Defense Fund requestors to tender an offer to GMA to enter into a Common Interest Agreement available from GMA. Before submitting your request, please review the Common Interest Agreement and confirm that your client agrees to tender this offer. GMA reserves the right to accept or reject the offer at its sole discretion and will provide GMA’s decision to the requestor in writing.
For more information about GMA's Legal Advocacy Program, please complete and submit the Contact Us form or contact Susan Moore at (678) 686-6211.