A quiet title action is an action brought in equity to resolve disputes or “clouds” on title to a piece of real property. Many times, quiet title actions are brought to resolve boundary line disputes, settle old abandoned easements, or adjust fence lines.
Tracy is frequently appointed by Cobb County Superior Court judges to serve as a Special Master in quiet title matters. To be qualified to serve, a special master must be a member in good standing with the State Bar of Georgia and must reside in the county where the action pends. The special master should also be skilled in title examination and various aspects law relating to land including easements, boundary lines, and surveys.
A Special Master’s role in these cases is to first examine the property and title history and determine which persons and entities are entitled to notice of the action. To do this, the special master must locate the property at issue using the county tax parcel maps, produced and maintained by the county Tax Assessor’s office. The tax parcel maps and tax cards provide a lot of routine information about a piece of property including the property owner’s name and address. Some parcels also include recent sales information with references to deed book and page numbers in the Clerk’s Office deed records. A review of the tax maps also allows the examiner to identify adjoining properties. After reviewing the tax parcel records, the special master then checks and confirms the information in the deed records of the Clerk of Superior Court. This is a necessary step because while tax parcel data is generally reliable, it is not legally guaranteed. The only way to be certain of a property’s owner or proper legal description is by examination of the actual title and deed records.
After determining those persons or entities entitled to notice in a quiet title action, the special master is responsible for serving those persons or entities. Once all parties have notice of the lawsuit and have had the opportunity to participate, the special master can then conduct hearings and receive evidence from the interested parties. Additionally, the special master can review and consider legal arguments from the parties about their respective positions.
After reviewing all the evidence and legal arguments, the special master then submits a recommendation to the assigned Superior Court judge. The special master does not have decision-making authority over the case’s ultimate outcome; that authority and jurisdiction lies with the judge alone. The judge then reviews the special master’s recommendations and any exceptions or objections to the recommendation by the parties and makes the ultimate ruling in the case.