The Georgia Supreme Court this morning issued its decision rejecting a challenge to the validation of the bonds financing the Braves’ new Cobb County stadium, SunTrust Park. My earlier post about the case is here.
The Court’s decision, by Justice Nahmias, was unanimous. At 43 pages, it’s unusually long for the Georgia Supreme Court, maybe the longest opinion this year. And it’s comprehensive, addressing each of the bond challengers’ arguments (I think) and even some points they didn’t specifically raise.
But the decision is also narrowly written. I thought we might see language from the Court (or in a concurrence) to the effect that the result is required by precedent even if that precedent has the unfortunate effect of undermining the Georgia Constitution’s debt limitation clause. There is nothing quite like that in the opinion. There’s a discussion of precedent and stare decisis in Division 5(b) (pages 29-31 of the slip opinion), but I don’t see any suggestion of disagreement with the precedent there. In Division 10, the Court notes that the bond parties “relied on the prior decisions of this Court” in structuring the deal, and “[t]here is nothing wrong with that,” because “[w]hile aspects of the deal structure at issue may push the law about as far as it can go, it does not cross the line into illegality.” (Slip op. 42-43.) I’m sure challengers to future bond deals will quote that line. But if the Court had wanted to, it could have given future challengers more to build upon. It didn’t.
I also notice that, because the Court decided the stadium qualified as a “recreational” facility, it didn’t reach the interesting (for lawyers) question of whether a baseball stadium is a “park.”