Q&A on the News

Q: Are county magistrate judges elected or appointed? If they’re appointed, by whom?

—Michael Poynor, Atlanta

A: Most chief magistrates are elected to four-year terms through partisan, countywide elections, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia. However, some counties hold nonpartisan elections or have their local legislative delegation appoint their chief magistrates.

For instance, beginning in 2018, Fulton County’s chief magistrate will be selected in a nonpartisan, countywide race every four years. The chief magistrate will then appoint other magistrate judges, who will serve concurrent terms with the chief, with the approval of Fulton County State and Superior Court judges.

After a recommendation by the Fulton County Court Improvement Task Force, the Georgia General Assembly in 2013 changed Fulton’s chief magistrate to an elected seat instead of an appointment.

Georgia’s current Constitution, adopted in 1983, combined justice of the peace courts and magistrate courts with small claims courts to create the current magistrate court system.

Magistrate courts have limited jurisdiction, which includes civil claims of $15,000 or less, county ordinance violations, bad checks, evictions, preliminary hearings and the issuance of summons, arrest warrants and search warrants.

Fast Copy News Service wrote this column; Keith Still contributed. Do you have a question? We’ll try to get the answer. Call 404-222-2002 or email q&a@ajc.com (include name, phone and city).

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