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Rockdale judge to hear Supreme Court appeal

CONYERS — Rockdale Superior Court Chief Judge David Irwin has been designated to hear a state Supreme Court appeal involving a long-running border dispute between Bibb and Monroe counties. At stake in the dispute are potentially millions of dollars in tax revenue.

Irwin will serve in place of Justice David E. Nahmias in the related appeals of Bibb County v. Monroe County et al. and Georgia’s Secretary of State Brian Kemp v. Monroe County. The appeals will be heard at 10 a.m. Tuesday in Atlanta.

According to published reports, the border dispute has been simmering since the 1940s, but reached the boiling point in 2005, prompting then-Gov. Sonny Perdue to appoint a surveyor to settle the issue once and for all.

However, when the survey was completed four years later, Bibb County challenged it and Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp agreed with Bibb. Kemp rejected the survey, which favored Monroe County, saying that it did not conclusively determine the location of an early ferry used in the original survey, that it would change the boundary line for Crawford County, and that it would create an “island” of Bibb County entirely surrounded by Monroe County.

Monroe County, with its county seat of Forsyth, lies to the north of Bibb County. Crawford County lies to the south of Monroe and west of Bibb. Macon is the county seat of Bibb.

Included in the property at stake are part of a subdivision and property adjacent to Bass Pro Shops in northern Bibb County. Potentially millions of dollars in property and sales taxes could shift from Bibb to Monroe if the 2009 survey is enforced.

Although Kemp rejected the 2009 survey, he did not establish a definitive boundary between the two counties, as required by law. Monroe County then filed a writ of mandamus in Fulton County to compel Kemp to set the boundary. The trial court granted the petition and also required Kemp to adopt the 2009 survey boundary line.

Bibb County was not notified that Monroe had petitioned for a writ of mandamus and filed an emergency motion to intervene as a party. That motion was denied, which led Bibb County and Kemp to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

In addition to hearing arguments from the parties on Tuesday, Chief Judge Irwin will participate in the court’s decision.

Irwin, 57, was elected as Superior Court judge in 1998 and has been re-elected three times. He is serving his fourth term and became chief judge with the retirement of Judge Sidney Nation last year.

Prior to his election, Irwin practiced law for 16 years in Rockdale County, focusing on criminal, civil, family and personal injury. He was a partner with the firm, Barksdale Irwin Talley & Sharp from 1985 to 1996 and a solo practitioner from 1996 until he was elected judge. He is a former public defender with the Rockdale Judicial Circuit and also served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1991 to 1992. He was active in the State YMCA and Rockdale Cares Inc., a nonprofit organization that serves mentally challenged individuals.

Irwin is a member of the Council of Superior Court Judges and serves on the council’s Personnel Committee.

He grew up in Dawson and earned his bachelor of arts degree from North Georgia College and his law degree from the Mercer School of Law. He and his wife, Lisa, have been married 33 years and have two adult children. He is a member of the Conyers First United Methodist Church, where he teaches Sunday school.