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Quo Warranto Not for Wrongful Actions in Office

Edwards v. Smith, 369 Ga. App. 128, 892 S.E.2d 566 (2023)

Here, Smith is not questioning Edwards’s qualifications or right to hold his public position. Rather, she is challenging whether an action he took while in office was permitted under the Georgia Constitution. Contrary to Smith’s assertions, however, OCGA § 9-6-60 is not a permissible vehicle for bringing such a challenge. Both the trial court and Smith rely upon Delay as authority for the proposition that a writ of quo warranto may be used to challenge a statute’s constitutionality. Delay v. Sutton, 304 Ga. 338, 340, 818 S.E.2d 659 (2018). But we find this reliance on Delay misplaced. In Delay, the petitioner challenged in quo warranto certain members of a county’s board of ethics who were appointed under a new county law. Id. at 338-340, 818 S.E.2d 659. The law vested the appointment authority for these positions in private entities (a power previously held by county officials). Id. In challenging the appointment of these board members, the constitutionality of the law was relevant: if the law was unconstitutional, the board members’ appointments would be void. (Ultimately, the Supreme Court agreed that the county law was unconstitutional and the board members appointed under it must be removed.) Id. at 342, 818 S.E.2d 659. Here, on the other hand, there is no challenge to the qualifications or right of any officials to hold their office (and no accompanying constitutional challenge).