By Justin O’Dell
When we last saw Dick and Jane, Dick had received a threatening letter related to his new start up company. The letter threatened litigation should Dick fail to respond. Although Dick retained Counsel and sent a thorough response, a lawsuit has been filed. For the next few months, we will analyze the various parts of a typical lawsuit and ways in which Dick needs to respond.
A lawsuit is initiated by the Plaintiff filing a Complaint or Petition, a Summons and service of process. The Complaint outlines the facts and allegations of the case and the specific legal bases upon which the Complaint is brought, i.e. “breach of contract.” The Summons directs the Defendant to file an Answer within a specified time period or be subject to default. Service of Process is the formal mechanism by which the Defendant is notified of the lawsuit. Service must be made in strict compliance with Georgia law and can be handled by the Sheriff’s office, a private process server or can be coordinated and waived between the lawyers handling the case. In our situation, because Dick has already retained counsel to respond to the demand letter, service of process was waived as a professional courtesy between the lawyers involved and Dick was spared the embarrassment of having the Sheriff show up at his place of business or home to deliver the papers.
The lawsuit against Dick was filed in the Superior Court of Cobb County. The Superior Court is the Court of general jurisdiction for a County and each of the 159 Counties have a Superior Court. Cobb County also has a State Court which is able to handle many, but not all types of litigation (cases involving felonies, divorce and equitable relief must be in the Superior Court). Many smaller counties do not have a State Court. Dick’s former employer is seeking an injunction and restraining order against Dick and his new company. A restraining order and injunction is equitable relief, thus the Complaint is in the Superior Court.
The Superior Court, including the offices of the Clerk and the District Attorney, are now all located in the new Cobb County Courthouse on Haynes Street. The Superior Court of Cobb County consists of 10 elected judges and four assisting Senior Judges. The ten elected Judges are:
|Chief Judge Adele Grubbs
Judge Robert Leonard
Judge Mary E. Staley
Judge James G. Bodiford
Judge S. Lark Ingram
|Judge Robert Flournoy
Judge J. Stephen Schuster
Judge C. LaTain Kell
Judge Reuben Green
Judge Gregory Poole
The four assisting Senior Judges are: Judge Conley Ingram, Judge Grant Brantley, Judge George Kreeger and Judge Michael Stoddard. Each Senior Judge assists on a one-week rotating basis. The Senior Judges administer the jury oaths, call the daily uncontested divorce calendar, hear and consider temporary protective orders and hear and consider emergency matters.
In addition to the Senior Judges, the Cobb Superior Court Judges also designate one of the four Cobb Juvenile Court Judges as an assisting Superior Court Judge on a one-week rotating basis. Each Judge receives the assistance of a Juvenile Court Judge once every ten weeks. The Superior Court Judge is able to delegate any matters to that Judge for hearing. Most of the Superior Court Judges use this time to delegate the regular criminal and domestic calendars while they are presiding over a lengthy criminal or civil jury trial.
Business litigation of this nature is often won or lost in two areas, both relate to preparation. The first area of critical importance is the initial response and any immediate hearings. The second area of critical importance is the discovery phase.
In Dick’s case, the request for a temporary restraining order and interlocutory injunction will require an immediate hearing. Dick’s former employer wishes to shut Dick’s new enterprise down during the litigation. Obviously, Dick wants to stay in business. Believe it or not, the entire case could be won or lost in this hearing. Fortunately for Dick, the burden upon his former employer is high.
Coming next month, we will discuss the hearing and see what happens. . .