ATLANTA (CN) – A challenge by members of the Georga Bar to a mandatory electronic filing system is ripe for decision by a federal judge on a motion to dismiss by lawyers for defendant LexisNexis.
“The diversity jurisdiction provisions of the Class Action Fairness Act do not apply here, where the ‘primary defendants’ [include] government officials/entities against whom the court maybe be foreclosed from ordering relief,” said Matthew Martin with Paul Hastings arguing for dismissal.
In the class action filed in June, Atlanta lawyer Steven Newton accuses LexisNexis Courtlink Inc., a division of Reed Elsevier, and Fulton County State and Superior Court officials and Fulton County of violating the Georgia Constitution in their effort to impose a mandatory, electronic filing system on the state’s lawyers.
In his reply, Martin argued that public or private officials are entitled to absolute immunity in claims in which they acted in their official duties or at the directive of a facially-valid court order.
On a separate defense, Martin argued based on according to Georgia law, “payments of claims made through ignorance of the law or where all the facts are known and there is no misplaced confidence and no artifice, deception, or fraudulent practice used by the other party are deemed voluntary.”
And on the due process claim, he argued, “Plaintiffs failed to rebut settled authority which establishes they have no property interest in fees voluntarily paid to [LexisNexis]. Moreover, plaintiffs ignore case authority which establishes that, where there is an alternative to incurring the charge, there can be no violation of the due process clause.”
Plaintiff lawyer Newton has answered earlier similar arguments but has repeatedly said the case boils down to a separation of powers argument. He has said the attorneys representing the defendants have failed to address his primary reasons supporting the lawsuit: a state law states that court clerks should accept paper filings, limits the fees the clerk can add to those approved by general law and only authorizes magistrate court to accept optional e-filing.
Newton also points to a case involving a judge and clerk in Clinch County, located in South Georgia where the judge and clerk were indicted for charging unauthorized fees in criminal cases in Clinch County. Mandated by a judicial order, the fees were deposited in a secret bank account and used to finance courthouse expenditures.
In his reply, Martin said, “This is nothing more than a disingenuous attempt to equate public administrative orders regarding known court-filings to (alleged) back-room deals, (alleged) quid pro judicial rulings, and the (alleged) collection of secret fees deposited in secret bank accounts and secretly distributed to co-conspirators.”
In addition to LexisNexis Courtlink Inc., the defendants are Mark Harper, chief clerk of the Fulton County State Court; A.L. Thompson, Fulton County State Court chief judge; Doris L. Downs, Fulton County Superior Court chief judge; Cathlene “Tina” Robinson, clerk of the Fulton County Superior Court and Fulton County, Georgia.
The matter is pending before U.S. District Court Judge William Duffey.