Georgia’s Supreme Court rejects appeal for in-state tuition

Georgia’s highest court on Monday unanimously rejected an appeal aimed at allowing immigrants without legal status to pay substantially lower in-state college tuition rates.

But the contentious legal battle is not over. An attorney for the 39 plaintiffs in the case said they would file suit this week against the members of the Georgia Board of Regents individually. The plaintiffs have scheduled a news conference for 10 a.m. Monday to announce that plan.

In its ruling Monday, the court said the principle of sovereign immunity shielded the Board of Regents from the plaintiff’s lawsuit, filed more than a year ago.

“The sweep of sovereign immunity under the Georgia Constitution is broad,” the court’s opinion says. “It provides: ‘Except as specifically provided in this paragraph, sovereign immunity extends to the state and all of its departments and agencies. The sovereign immunity of the state and its departments and agencies can only be waived by an act of the General Assembly….’”

At the same time, the court said it is possible for the plaintiffs to go another route.

“Our decision today does not mean that citizens aggrieved by the unlawful conduct of public officers are without recourse,” the court’s opinion says. “It means only that they must seek relief against such officers in their individual capacities.”

Charles Kuck, the attorney for the plaintiffs, said he would move this week to file a new lawsuit naming the individual members of the Board of Regents.

“It is quite clear that the Georgia Supreme Court has decided to severely limit the rights of Georgia citizens to seek redress under the Declaratory Judgment Act against actions of state officials,” said Kuck, an Atlanta-area immigration attorney. “So we will move forward in another action against the individual members of the Board of Regents, as suggested by the Supreme Court.”