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Georgia high court rejects state claim that its laws can’t be challenged under state constitution


Constitutional Law

The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday tossed a challenge to a law banning most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, but rejected the state’s argument that state officials could never be sued in a state constitutional challenge to a state law.

The court ruled that, absent state consent, sovereign immunity protects state officials from being sued in their official capacities in a state constitutional challenge to a law. But the court said officials could be sued in their individual capacities, report the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Daily Report (sub. req.) and the Associated Press.

The court dismissed the challenge to the law because it had been filed against the state officials in their official capacity.

The law makes it a felony to perform most abortions after 20 weeks and gives prosecutors access to abortion patients’ medical records. The suit, filed by three obstetricians, had claimed the law violates state constitutional rights to privacy and due process.

A press release by the Goldwater Institute quotes Jim Manley, senior attorney at the institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation. The state position, if adopted by the Supreme Court “would have given the legislature a dangerous level of power,” he said. “Today’s decision means the case is still dismissed, but the court made clear that the legal dispute is far from over.”

The institute had joined with several other groups to urge the Georgia Supreme Court to reject the state position. Those groups included the Southern Center for Human Rights, the Anti-Defamation League, and GeorgiaCarry.org.




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