Supreme Court hears arguments in APS-City of Atlanta annexation case

The Georgia Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday in the latest development in one of three separate lawsuits related to the City of Atlanta’s ongoing battles over annexation and school district property.

At issue in Monday’s arguments: When the city of Atlanta annexes land and expands its boundaries, do the Atlanta Public Schools follow suit?

In a lawsuit against Atlanta Public Schools, the city of Atlanta claims that it should be able to grow, but that APS should not. According to the city, an old constitutional amendment that calls for the school district to expand its boundaries when the city does is unconstitutional and “an anachronism that should have been allowed to expire.”

But a lower court ruled with the school system, meaning that for now, the school system gets bigger as the city does.

The issue is of particular interest as Atlanta recently moved to annex parts of previously unincorporated Fulton County.

APS and the Fulton County Schools have argued that Atlanta was apparently concerned that APS “could be an impediment to future annexations in Fulton County.” The city’s argument, they say, is “based entirely on an improper, hyper-technical interpretation” of the law.

APS has also argued that the city shouldn’t be able to sue it in the first place, because it’s a political subdivision of the state and has sovereign immunity, a legal shield from lawsuits.

In a separate but related case, APS is seeking the deeds to dozens of Atlanta school properties. The city holds the deeds because they were acquired before the school district was legally separated from the city. Now APS wants to sell some of those properties, but can’t because it doesn’t hold the deeds, school district officials have said.

That suit is pending in Fulton County Superior Court.

And in another case the state Supreme Court heard earlier this year, the city of Atlanta argued that it should have the right to annex land in an unincorporated portion of Fulton County that has been off-limits for nearly 40 years. A decision on that case is pending.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.