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  • Writer's pictureWill Downs

The Accused Shall Enjoy the Right to a Jury Trial… In ALL Dispossessory Cases?

Updated: Apr 9

It is hard to believe, but the Georgia Constitution provides for the right of trial by jury in dispossessory actions. The rationale is based on extremely old Georgia law.  In civil actions, the right to trial by jury exists only where the right existed prior to the adoption of the first Georgia Constitution in 1983.[1]  The 1983 Georgia Constitution and O.C.G.A. § 9-11-38 assure that this right is inviolate.[2]  Surprisingly, the right to a jury trial in dispossessory actions was in existence prior to the adoption of the first Georgia Constitution, and thus… this right remains inviolate (with the exception of proceedings in magistrate court—these proceedings are not subject to O.C.G.A. § 9-11-38’s right to jury trial[3]).

It is not only a litigant’s constitutional right, but a properly filed jury trial demand may even delay a landlord’s proceedings from what would typically be a speedy process to one that can take as long as eighteen (18) months.  That means, if the tenant demands a jury trial and pays the rent into the registry of the court, the landlord could be in for a very long and expensive ride.

In practice, of course, a dispossessory jury trial occurs less frequently than Halley’s Comet, since a tenant must be able to pay past due rental, ongoing rental, and attorney’s fees to get to a jury trial.  Primarily, it is a gamesmanship tactic, and knowing how to defeat it is essential to keeping dispossessory costs down and expediting the eviction.  Please consult Atlanta real estate attorney and skilled litigator, William Downs, for help with landlord-tenant litigation strategy.

—————— [1] Dept. of Transp. v. Del-Cook Timber Co., 248 Ga. 734(1982); Bell v. Cronic, 248 Ga. 457; Strange v. Strange, 222 Ga. 44 (1966); Metropolitan Cas. Ins. Co. &c. v. Huhn, 165 Ga. 667. [2] “The right of trial by jury as declared by the Constitution of the state or as given by a statute of the state shall be preserved to the parties inviolate.”  O.C.G.A. § 9-11-38. [3] O.C.G.A. § 15-10-42.

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