Robert S. Highsmith Jr. practices regulatory and administrative law, public policy litigation, government contracting, and government relations. He represents diverse large corporate and governmental clients in contested matters, large transactions, and government affairs before myriad Georgia state and local governmental agencies, including the Public Service Commission, Department of Community Health, Department of Insurance, Department of Revenue, the General Assembly, and the City of Atlanta. He also advocates before Georgia's congressional delegation and the Trump Administration.
Mr. Highsmith has extensive experience advocating client regulatory and policy interests across a wide range of substantive areas, including:
- natural gas and energy
- government procurement
- tax incentives and economic development
- government investigations
- alcohol beverage regulation
- federal and state appropriations
He routinely handles a wide range of matters, including:
- administrative litigation
- regulatory policy
- bid protest and procurement litigation
- internal investigations
- State Attorney General investigations
- tax incentives for economic development
- legislative lobbying
- campaign finance and election law compliance
Mr. Highsmith also has an active public policy litigation practice, with a focus on state constitutional issues, regulatory appeals, and election law.
Mr. Highsmith's recent matters include:
- representing a large natural gas utility in multiple contested matters before the Georgia Public Service Commission
- leading negotiations on behalf of a major Atlanta sports franchise for the renovation of the team's home arena
- leading a multidisciplinary team designing and implementing one of the largest economic development incentive transactions ever contemplated in Georgia
- leading the legal team negotiating with the State of Georgia on behalf of a Class 1 railroad for the lease of a major state-owned rail line
- successfully defending the awards of several multibillion-dollar Medicaid managed care contracts in multiple states to one of the nation's largest providers of government-sponsored health care programs
- successfully defending the innovative sales practices of a large manufacturer of electric vehicles against regulatory challenges by an association of auto dealers that involved both administrative and legislative resolution
- successfully defending the award of a multibillion-dollar state pharmacy benefit management contract to one of the nation's largest pharmacy benefit management companies
- successfully defending a large governmental authority against alleged violations of government transparency laws
- several State Attorney General investigations
- serving as outside General Counsel to the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) since February of 2016
- serving as a lead lobbyist for Georgia's largest Medicaid managed care organization, two global telecommunications conglomerates, a large national pharmacy benefits management company, the world's busiest airport measured by passenger traffic, and a large mass transit agency, among others
Mr. Highsmith served as an executive counsel to Sonny Perdue, President Donald Trump's Secretary of Agriculture, when Perdue was Georgia's Governor. As Perdue's lead legislative lawyer, Mr. Highsmith drafted and lobbied for Perdue's legislative package each year. He also advised Perdue on the full gamut of executive legal matters, including the state budget process, government procurement, transportation funding, water resource planning, and redistricting litigation. Mr. Highsmith serves on Governor Nathan Deal's Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC), which recommends judicial appointments statewide to the Governor. He is the only Commission member to have also served on former Governor Sonny Perdue's JNC.
Having also served as outside counsel for Georgia's governor, former governor, and several other Georgia elected officials, Mr. Highsmith is among Georgia's foremost authorities on governmental ethics, open records and transparency, campaign finance, and election law. Mr. Highsmith formerly served on the State Ethics Commission, a quasi-judicial body with statewide jurisdiction over ethics issues involving public officials, lobbyists, and state vendors, as an appointee of former Governor Roy Barnes.
Mr. Highsmith previously served as assistant general counsel to the Georgia Republican Party, chief of staff to the Republican Caucus of the Georgia House of Representatives, and policy director to the 1998 Republican nominee for governor of Georgia.
In the fall of 2012, Mr. Highsmith was appointed a Lecturer in Yale College, traveling there weekly to teach "Lobbying and the Law," a for-credit undergraduate seminar he designed.
At the University of Georgia, Mr. Highsmith's mock trial team won national first runner-up honors in the National Institute of Trial Advocacy's Tournament of Champions.
- Highwoods Properties, Inc. v. City of Chamblee, 329 Ga. App. 346, 765 S.E.2d 33 (2014)
- Bithoney v. Fulton-DeKalb Hosp. Authority, 313 Ga. App. 335, 721 S.E.2d 577 (2011)
- Moore ex rel. Moore v. Reese, 637 F.3d 1220 (11th Cir. 2011)
- Dozier v. Baker, 283 Ga. 543, 661 S.E.2d 543 (2008)
- McCreary v. Martin, 281 Ga. 668, 642 S.E.2d 80 (2007)
- Brodie v. Champion, 281 Ga. 105, 636 S.E.2d 511 (2006)
- Associated General Contractors of America, Central Ohio Div. v. City of Columbus, 147 F. Supp. 2d 864 (S.D. Ohio 2001)