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Special Contribution


The City Court of Atlanta, the primary traffic court for Atlanta, Georgia, has exercised jurisdiction since 1996 over more than one million traffic violations and, since 1988 and under two statutes, some fifty thousand nontraffic misdemeanors. The City Court's first predecessor, the Traffic Court of Atlanta, adjudicated traffic law violations from 1955 to 1967 and was replaced in 1967 by a second court, also known as the City Court, which existed until 1996. That City Court's jurisdiction was expanded in 1988 to include nontraffic misdemeanors arising from the same occurrence as the traffic violation. In 1996 the City Court was "re-create[d]" as "a system of state courts," and its same-occurrence misdemeanor jurisdiction was included within the new court's jurisdiction. In its various incarnations over forty-five years, the City Court has proven to be a highly efficient and effective forum for resolving traffic cases.

An earlier article suggested that the 1988 and 1996 City Court statutes are unconstitutional for a variety of reasons. Most simply, the 1996 "recreation" of the City Court as a state court and the 1988 and 1996 grants of same-occurrence misdemeanor jurisdiction violate Articles III, VI, and XI of the 1983 Georgia Constitution. The result is that either the court's entire jurisdiction from 1996 to the present, the court's same-occurrence misdemeanor jurisdiction from 1988 to the present, or both, have been and are being exercised unconstitutionally. This article will discuss the analytical underpinnings of the state court litigation that can be expected to follow in the wake of the court's constitutional and jurisdictional problems.