South Carolina’s Magistrate Courts are the limited jurisdiction trial courts, and there are 311 magistrates in the state. Each county has a magistrate. The state Governor appoints them into office for four-year terms. They are confirmed by the Senate before taking their seats. Magistrates must pass an exam before being appointed, and they must also “attend an orientation program, pass a certification examination within one year of their appointment, and attend a specified number of trials prior to conducting a trial.”
The types of cases resolved in Magistrate’s Courts are criminal trials where the penalties do not exceed $500 or 30 days in prison. They can also handle cases where civil actions are no more than $7,500. They may also hear traffic offense cases, set bail, issue arrest, and search warrants and conduct preliminary hearings for felonies. In some cases, Magistrate Courts are allowed to handle domestic violence cases, third-degree driving offenses, forgery and other cases transferred from General Sessions Court where the penalties are one year in prison and fines of $5,500 or both. Magistrate Courts are not courts of record; they conduct summary proceedings.
Each of the 311 Magistrate Court judges is listed on the South Carolina’s Judicial Branch website in a few different formats. They include the judge’s name, office address, office phone number, fax number, and county. Additionally, the same website offers patrons of the Magistrate Court system a Summary Court Judges Bench Book with detailed information about the court system, types of courts, filing forms for both civil and criminal cases, orders, court rules, and additional information. Unfortunately, South Carolina’s e-filing options are only for the Court of Common Pleas (civil Circuit Court) cases. All cases filed in Magistrate Courts need to be filed in person.