A DeKalb attorney has filed a brief with the Georgia Supreme Court in support of three Cobb residents who are challenging the legality of bonds Cobb County wants to issue for the new Atlanta Braves stadium.
Attorney Loren C. Collins describes himself in the amicus brief as a Georgia taxpayer with no financial interest or relationship with any of the parties. He says in the brief that he has been an “outspoken” critic of publicly-financed professional sports stadiums and “wants to discourage Georgia from imitating other states in allowing hundreds of millions of tax dollars to be spent for the primary benefit and profit of private business interests.”
In an interview, Collins said he was admitted to the Supreme Court bar specifically to file the brief.
“I wanted to make some arguments that I felt hadn’t been made strongly enough and rebut some arguments I had seen in the briefs,” Collins said. “I felt compelled to do what I could.”
Collins brief takes issue with several points made in an amicus breif filed on behalf of the Braves by attorney Leah W. Sears, a former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, and the country’s first African American female appointed as a chief justice.
Amicus briefs are legal arguments filed to support one side of a pending case. Judges are free to give as much, or as little, merit to them as they wish.
Collins brief backs attorney Tucker Hobgood’s argument that the bonds — which would be repaid by county-wide property tax revenue, along with a variety of other taxes and fees — are not legal because the money is being given to a private business.
“The bond issuance before this court, after all, concerns funds being secured to construct a stadium (SunTrust Park) to be leased to and occupied by an already existing and operating business (the Atlanta Braves) with a perfectly adequate building (Turner Field). The only ostensible `public good’ to be provided is that this Major League Baseball stadium would be located at the intersection of I-285 and I-75, instead of a fifteen minute drive south.”
Collins said he’s not sure how much weight his brief will have with the justices, who earlier this week heard oral arguments in an appeal of the validaiton of up to $397 million in bonds that Cobb County wants to issue. Most of that money from the bond issuance — $368 million — will be dedicated to stadium construciton; the rest will cover financing costs and about 18 months of initial interest.
“The Braves filed a brief by a former Supreme Court chief justice,” Collins said. “Mine will be titled: Amicus Brief By Some Guy They’ve Never Heard Of.”