Georgia Appeals Law Guide / Appellate Law Treatise

Direct Appeal

OCGA § 5-6-34(a) lists twelve categories of judgments and rulings from which “[a]ppeals may be taken to the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals.” Georgia courts describe appeals under this section as “direct appeals,” and if direct appeal is available, an appellant need not satisfy the interlocutory review requirements of OCGA § 5-6-34(b), even if there has been no final judgment in the case. However, if the case falls into one of the categories listed in OCGA § 5-6-35, the appellant must comply with the discretionary review requirements.

OCGA § 5-6-34(a)(1) allows appeal from “final judgments.” Appeals from final judgments are discussed under In the Trial Court > Final Judgment. Other categories of direct appeal are discussed below.

Contempt cases

OCGA § 5-6-34(a)(2) provides for appeal of “[a]ll judgments involving applications for discharge in bail trover and contempt cases.” In American Medical Security Group, Inc. v. Parker, 284 Ga. 102 (663 SE2d 697) (2008), the Georgia Supreme Court addressed the distinction between a contempt order appealable under this subsection and an interlocutory sanctions order, which could only be appealed under Section 5-6-34(b). The Court noted that “criminal contempt imposes unconditional punishment for prior acts of contumacy, whereas civil contempt imposes conditional punishment as a means of coercing future compliance with a prior court order.” Parker, 663 SE2d at 700. The Court found that the order at issue (dismissing the appellants’ answer and entering a default judgment) was neither criminal contempt (because it did not impose the fine or imprisonment provided for criminal contempt by OCGA § 15-6-8(5)) nor civil contempt (because it was not conditional and did not coerce future compliance). That the trial court entered the order as a sanction for an “act of contempt” did not make the order appealable. Parker, 663 SE2d at 699. The Court cited with approval an Illinois case holding “that a trial court may not make a discovery order containing the sanction of a default judgment as to liability directly appealable by framing the order in contempt language.” Id. at 700 n.15.

Orders directing an accounting

OCGA § 5-6-34(a)(3) provides for appeal of “[a]ll judgments or orders directing that an accounting be had.” In Geeslin v. Sheftall, 263 Ga. App. 827, 827 (589 SE2d 601) (2003), the Georgia Court of Appeals noted the distinction “between orders directing that an accounting be had and orders performing that accounting.” An order directing an accounting is appealable under this subsection; an order performing an accounting is not.

Injunctions

OCGA § 5-6-34(a)(4) provides for appeal of “[a]ll judgments or orders granting or refusing applications for receivers or for interlocutory or final injunctions.” This provision is not coextensive with the Georgia Constitution’s grant of appellate jurisdiction to the Georgia Supreme Court in “equity cases.” Ga. Const. Art. VI, Sec. VI, Par. III(2). In Saxton v. Coastal Dialysis and Medical Clinic, Inc., 267 Ga. 177, 179 (476 SE2d 587) (1996), the Supreme Court held that “if an appeal from a judgment granting or denying equitable relief in the form of an injunction is transferred to the Court of Appeals …, the case is not an ‘equity’ case within this court’s general appellate jurisdiction, but the judgment therein nevertheless remains one granting or denying injunctive relief and is directly appealable under OCGA § 5-6-34(a)(4).”

Orders dissolving injunctive relief are appealable under OCGA § 5-6-34(a)(4). See Morgan v. U.S. Bank N.A., 322 Ga. App. 357 (745 SE2d 290) (2013).

Will caveat

OCGA § 5-6-34(a)(9) provides for appeal of “[a]ll judgments or orders sustaining motions to dismiss a caveat to the probate of a will.” In Mays v. Rancine–Kinchen, 291 Ga. 283, 284 (729 SE2d 321) (2012), the Georgia Supreme Court held this subsection “does not allow direct appeals from judgments or orders that partially sustain a motion to dismiss a caveat.” (Emphasis added.)

Child custody cases

OCGA § 5-6-34(a)(11) provides for appeal of “[a]ll judgments or orders in child custody cases awarding, refusing to change, or modifying child custody or holding or declining to hold persons in contempt of such child custody judgment or orders.” In Edge v. Edge, 290 Ga. 551, 552 (722 SE2d 749) (2012), the Georgia Supreme Court stated that this subsection “permits a direct appeal of an order in a child custody case regarding which parent has custody regardless of finality.”

In Todd v. Todd, 703 S.E.2d 597, 599 (2010), the Supreme Court held that because the matter “is not a child custody case, but is a divorce case in which child custody is an issue,” direct appeal under Section 5-6-34(a)(11) was not available.

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