The Magistrate Court, also called Small Claims Court, is an informal court that handles money claims of less than $15,000, offering a quick and inexpensive process for complaint resolution. This court also issues arrest and search warrants and presides over all county ordinance violations. Dade County's Chief Magistrate is Joel McCormick and he is assisted by Magistrate Charles Morgan. Trials and hearings are conducted when scheduled by the Court.
The Chief Magistrate assigns cases, sets court sessions, appoints other magistrates (with the consent of the superior court judges) and sets policy for the magistrate court. The number of magistrates in addition to the chief is usually set by majority vote of the county's superior court judges.
Qualification for Magistrate
To qualify as a magistrate, an individual must reside in the county for at least one year preceding his or her term of office, be 25 years of age, and have a high school diploma or its equivalent. A magistrate court judge may also serve as a judge of another limited jurisdiction court in the same county.
The Magistrate Court process is much simpler, less complex and often quicker when it comes to having cases resolved than in other courts. In the Magistrate Court it is not mandatory that you have an attorney for the presentation or defense of your case. Persons representing themselves may present or defend their own cases, whether civil or criminal in nature.
Court of Inquiry
Magistrate Court is a court of inquiry, not a court of record. Although the Civil Practice Act does not apply, the rules of evidence do. Magistrate Court is also the forum in which a majority of the dispossessory, or eviction, actions are filed and addressed. It is also the forum in which violations of county ordinances are addressed. In general, the maximum sentence that can be imposed for violation of any one county ordinance is a $1,000 fine and confinement for 60 days. The Judges of Magistrate Court also handle the Initial Appearance Hearings of individuals arrested on felony warrants.
View the Georgia Magistrate Council website for more information.