Georgia’s Magistrate Courts are the people’s courts and were designed to help self-represented citizens obtain justice. These courts are typically cheaper and quicker than other state courts. The majority of cases are self-represented which is why the Magistrate Courts website offers the public a lot of resources including advice, forms, and helpful links to allow them to process their cases quickly. They even have a forms generator on their website and video tutorials. Dozens of downloadable forms also exist on the site for easy access.
There are 159 Magistrate Courts in Georgia. A Chief Magistrate oversees each one. He or she may be joined by others to preside over cases. Magistrate Courts are non-jury trial courts. Because most of the patrons of Magistrate Court are self-represented, the main Georgia Judicial Gateway site has a lot of useful information about the laws, filing requirements, legal aid, other rules of the courtroom and support staff if help is needed. They also have links to the sex offender registry and other felon searches. The state of Georgia encouraged e-filing as it makes the process smoother for all parties. Georgia uses PeachCourt for their e-filing vendor.
The types of cases heard in Magistrate Court are civil cases involving $15,000 or less (basically small claims court). They also process some minor criminal offenses, county ordinance violations, bad check cases, distress warrants, and dispossessory writs. These courts also handle a lot of ordinance violations. They also hold preliminary hearings, issue search and arrest warrants along with summonses. There are 159 Magistrate Courts in Georgia.
Magistrate Courts hear a lot of cases; on average they field about 1,307,768 cases per year. Of that total, 41.5 are for civil claims, 29% are for warrants issued, 25.5% is for hearings held in Magistrate Court, and only 4% is for criminal offenses.