Ga. Supreme Court rules for Senoia
by Sarah Fay Campbell
The Georgia Supreme Court has unanimously ruled in favor of the city of Senoia in the case of Rehman V. Belisle et. al.
Robert Belisle is the mayor of Senoia.
The court issued the opinion Monday, affirming the ruling of the trial court (Coweta Superior Court) in dismissing Don Rehman's case.
Rehman, who acted as his own attorney, had filed suit over the wording of a city ordinance relating to marijuana possession. The ordinance states: "It shall be unlawful for any person to have in his possession less than one ounce of marijuana."
Rehman had asked the council to tweak the wording to make it less confusing. After failing to get the council to voluntarily make the changes, he filed suit, asking to have the court force Senoia to change the ordinance, and alleging that the ordinance was "ill conceived, confusing, detrimental and unconstitutional" and should be repealed.
The reasons for affirming dismissal were Rehman's failure to properly "serve" the defendants, as required under state law, and Rehman's lack of "standing" to challenge the ordinance.
"Even if service had been perfected, it cannot be said the trial court erred in dismissing the petition because plaintiff, who has never been charged or even threatened with violating the ordinance, does not have standing to challenge the constitutionality of the ordinance," Chief Justice Hugh Thompson said in the order.
Thirdly, the court ruled that the trial court did not err in requiring Rehman to pay Senoia's attorney's fees and expenses for the litigation.
The Supreme Court rejected Senoia's motion to impose penalties against Rehman for filing a frivolous appeal.
State rules for "serving" defendants notice of a lawsuit are quite specific. Rehman decided to serve the defendants by leaving copies of the suit at city hall, faxing a copy of the suit to the city clerk, and sending emails to all parties.
Rehman claimed that his “constructive service” should suffice, even though it was not in line with what state law requires.
Thompson said in the order that Rehman "failed to perfect service upon any defendant" and that the defendants raised insufficiency of service as a defense. The defect in service "was not cured by the fact that defendants had actual knowledge that the petition had been filed against them" and the defendants did not waive their insufficiency of service defense.