Ga. Supreme Court says Klan lawsuit can go to trial

[private]The Georgia Supreme Court says a Ku Klux Klan lawsuit against the state Department of Transportation over DOT’s “Adopt-A-Highway” program can proceed to trial.

In a partial victory for the Klan, the Supreme Court justices ruled unanimously that the DOT had failed to follow the correct procedure for filing its appeal of a lower court’s decision, which meant that the Supreme Court did not have the authority to dismiss the lawsuit.

The International Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan applied to Union County in 2012 for a permit to participate in the Adopt-A-Highway program and clean up trash along a portion of Georgia Highway 515.

The Klan requested that “Georgia IKK Ku Klux Klan” be the name listed on the signs that would be placed along both sides of the “adopted” highway.

DOT officials, however, denied the application because of what they called the Ku Klux Klan’s “long-rooted history of civil disturbance” and the “potential for social unrest.” The DOT’s letter that if the application was granted, “the goal of the program, to allow civic-minded organizations to participate in public service for the State of Georgia, would not be met.”

The Klan subsequently sued the state in Fulton County Superior Court and requested a permanent injunction prohibiting the DOT from denying the Klan an Adopt-A-Highway permit. The organization argued that DOT was abridging its right of free speech.

DOT lawyers asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds of sovereign immunity. The trial court judge declined to dismiss it because of the free speech issue and DOT appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

But the court said the DOT’s lawyers did not follow the correct procedures in filing that appeal.

“The appeal is taken, however, from a judgment of a superior court reviewing a decision of a state administrative agency, and under OCGA § 5-6-35 (a) (1), there is no appeal of right from such a judgment,” the court said in an opinion written by Justice Keith Blackwell.

“An appeal from a judgment of that sort must come instead by way of an application for discretionary review,” the court said. “No application was filed in this case, and that leaves us without jurisdiction. For that reason, the appeal is dismissed.”

© 2016 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: adopt a highway , DOT , Georgia Supreme Court , KKK lawsuit