The Magistrate Court is Peach County's small claims court. You can pursue a case in this court with or without an attorney. The court has broad jurisdiction to try and dispose of most civil claims when the amount sought or the value of the property claimed does not exceed $15,000.00. The court can also hear dispossessory, writ of possession for personal property and garnishment actions.
Magistrate court jurisdiction also includes certain minor criminal offenses; distress warrants and dispossessory writs; county ordinance violations; deposit account fraud (bad checks); preliminary hearings; and summonses, arrest and search warrants. The chief magistrate, who may be assisted by one or more magistrates, presides over each of Georgia’s 159 magistrate courts
Magistrates may grant bail in cases where the setting of bail is not exclusively reserved to a judge of another court. No jury trials are held in magistrate court. If a defendant submits a written request for a jury trial, cases may be removed to superior or state court.
The chief magistrate of each county 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.
Most chief magistrates are elected in partisan, countywide elections to four-year terms. The chief magistrate may be appointed, if so provided by local legislation. Terms for other magistrate judges run concurrently with that of the chief magistrate who appointed them.
Examples of problems often taken to magistrate court include:
- A tenant refusing to pay for damages in excess of the security deposit.
- A landlord seeking to evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent.
- A landlord failing to return a security deposit.
- A merchant refusing to replace, repair or refund faulty merchandise.
- A person refusing to return money or property borrowed from another.
- A dry cleaner refusing to pay for lost or damaged clothing.
- A driver refusing to pay for repairs after denting someone's fender.
- An auto mechanic charging for work not done, unnecessary repairs or faulty workmanship.
You may file a claim in magistrate court in your own name without an attorney, or you may hire an attorney at your expense. Magistrate court cases are heard and decided by a judge without a jury. In some counties, mediation is recommended or required before a judge will hear the case.