In 1983, the General Assembly of Georgia enacted the legislation necessary to provide for a uniform magistrate court system and to abolish the office of justice of the peace. George Washington served as Justice of the Peace in Fairfax County from 1760 to 1774 and Thomas Jefferson served as JP in Albemarle County from 1777 until he became Governor of Virginia. These justice courts date back to the reign of Edward III in England. When the original colonies, including Georgia, were settled, the position of justice of the peace was carried over into the local institutions of government.
In 1961, Georgia's first "small claims court" was created. Over the next 20 years more than 100 such courts followed, each created by local legislation and each with varying jurisdiction. The Civil Practice Act did not apply to them, since they were not courts of record; therefore, they enjoyed a lack of formality which encouraged use of the courts by the lay public. Today, the magistrate courts have a much broader civil jurisdiction than that of predecessor courts. Magistrate court is confined to a monetary limit of $15,000.00. If the magistrate court is without jurisdiction, the magistrate should transfer the case to the court with jurisdiction.
Each of the 159 counties in Georgia has one Chief Magistrate judge, who is usually an elected official. Some counties have a combined Probate and Magistrate Judge. The Chief Magistrate may appoint other judges, who serve during the four year term as the Chief Magistrate. Ellen I. Pierce was appointed Chief Magistrate of Putnam County in 1997, by the Superior Court Judges in the Ocmulgee Circuit, when the probate and magistrate courts were separated. Chief Magistrate Pierce was elected the following term and has been dedicated to serving the public since that time. Chief Magistrate Pierce was again recently re-elected in 2014 by the people of Putnam County.
Magistrate's court is Georgia's court of small claims. Its purpose is to allow people to resolve relatively minor conflict such as property damage, failure to re-pay a debt, or properly perform a service. The person filing the claim is referred to as the Plaintiff; the party responding to the charge is referred to as the Defendant.
Georgia's Magistrate courts handle civil matters including: Statements of Claims, Continuing Garnishment, Bank Garnishments, Writs of Possession, Dispossessory Actions, Abandoned Vehicles, County Ordinance Violations, Bad Check Warrants, Weddings, setting bail on criminal charges unless those charges are the jurisdiction of another court, holding pre-warrant application hearings, setting special conditions on bonds, issuing warrants for law enforcement as well as issuing search warrants.
The filing fee for Statement of Claims, Garnishments, Writs of Possessions, Dispossessory proceedings is $94.00. There is a $10.00 fee for "Bad Check" warrants, $9.00for FiFa. Most fees are added in to the cost of an action. Please confirm any costs prior to filing by calling (706)485-4306. Copies of all forms can be mailed upon request. Please find below, information that may be helpful.
Magistrate court is considered the "Peoples Court" by many, as litigants are able to represent themselves (Pro Se) in civil hearings.
Please contact the court by email or call (706)485-4306 with any questions regarding procedures. Our office is unable to give Legal advice and encourage litigants to seek an attorney to represent them, if necessary.
This office cannot give legal advice
The following is an example of the form used to file a Statement of Claim.
Please contact our office to have a Claim mailed to you for your use, this is an example only
IN THE MAGISTRATE COURT OF PUTNAM COUNTY, STATE OF GEORGIA
__________________________________________________________________ Clerk, Putnam Magistrate Court, Ste. 306, 100 S. Jefferson St.,
Eatonton, GA 31024
Civil Action No._____________________________________
Plaintiff(s) Name, Address
Vs STATEMENT OF CLAIM
_________________________________________________________ E-Mail: putnamcountymagistrate.com
Defendant(s) Name, Address & Daytime Telephone #, if known; Or evening #.
[ ] Suit on Note [ ] Suit on Account [ ] Other ______________________________________________________________________
1. The Court has jurisdiction over the defendant(s) [ ] the Defendant(s) is a resident of Putnam County; [ ] Other (please specify)
2. Plaintiff(s) claims the Defendant(s) is indebted to the Plaintiff(s) as follows: _________________________________________________________
3. That said claim is in the amount of $_______________________, principal $________________________ interest, plus ______________________
costs to date, and all future costs of this suit.
State of Georgia, Putnam County:
________________________________________________________ being duly sworn on oath says the foregoing is a just and true statement the amount owing by defendant(s) to plaintiff(s), exclusive of all set-offs and just grounds of defense.
Sworn and subscribed before me this _____________________________________________________________
Plaintiff(s) or Agent
____________ day of _________________________________ 20_______ _____________________________________________________________ (If Agent-Title or Capacity)
Notary Public/Attesting Official ____________________________________________________________
Day Time Phone Number
NOTICE AND SUMMONS
TO: All Defendant(s) You are hereby notified that the above named Plaintiff(s) has/have made a claim and is requesting judgment against you in the sum shown by the foregoing statement. YOU ARE REQUIRED TO FILE or PRESENT AN ANSWER (answer forms can be obtained for the above listed web-site or clerk’s office) TO THIS CLAIM WITHIN 30 DAYS AFTER SERVICE OF THIS CLAIM UPON YOU. IF YOU DO NOT ANSWER, JUDGMENT BY DEFAULT WILL BE ENTERED AGAINST YOU. YOUR ANSWER MAY BE FILED IN WRITING OR MAY BE GIVEN ORALLY TO THE JUDGE. If you choose to file your answer orally, it MUST BE IN OPEN COURT IN PERSON and within the 30 day period. NO TELEPHONE ANSWERS ARE PERMITTED. The court will hold a hearing on this claim at the Putnam County Courthouse, Ste. 306, East Wing Courtroom #320, at a time to be scheduled after your answer is filed. You may come to court with or without an attorney. If you have witnesses, books, receipts, or other writings bearing on this claim, you should bring them to court at the time of your hearing. If you want witnesses or documents subpoenaed, see a staff person in the Clerk’s office for assistance. If you have a claim against the Plaintiff(s), you should notify the court by immediately filing a written answer and counterclaim. If you admit to the Plaintiff(s)’ claim but need additional time to pay, you must come to the hearing in person and tell the court your financial circumstances. Your answer must be RECEIVED by the clerk within 30 days of the date of service. If you are uncertain whether your answer will timely arrive by mail, file your answer in person at the clerk’s office during normal business hours.
This ____________ day of ________________________, 20 ___ ___________________________________________________
Magistrate or Deputy Clerk of Court
See Instructions on Reverse Side of this Document
How Do I Pursue My Claim?
No Jury trials are held in Magistrate Court. If a defendant submits a written request for a jury trial, cases are removed to Superior Court
Appeals from dispossessory actions must be filed within SEVEN (7) days from the date of judgment and also require, in addition to the appeal costs, that any amounts of rent determined due by the Magistrate Court to be paid into the registry of the Superior Court at the time of appeal and all future rents must also be paid when due.
If a Defendant fails to show at trial and a default judgment is issued, there is no appeal from a default judgment.
What is an abandoned motor vehicle?
A motor vehicle is abandoned if:
1. It has been left by the owner or some person acting for the owner, with an automobile repairman, or wrecker service for repairs or for some other reason and has not been called by such owner or person within:
a) days after the time agreed upon;
b) when no time is agreed upon, within thirty (30) days after the vehicle is turned over to a dealer, repairman, or wrecker service; or
c) within thirty (30) days after the completion of necessary repairs.
2. It is left unattended on a public street, road, highway, or other public property for a period of at least five (5) days and when it reasonably appears to a law enforcement officer that the individual who left such a motor vehicle unattended does not intend to return to such motor vehicle; or
3. If it has been lawfully towed onto the property of another at the request of a law enforcement officer and left there for a period of not less than thirty (30) days without anyone having made claim to the vehicle;
4. It has been lawfully towed onto the property of another at the request of a property owner whose property the vehicle was abandoned and left there for a period of not less than thirty (30) days without the owner (s) having made claim to the vehicle;
5. It has been left unattended on private property for a period of not less than thirty (30) days without anyone having made claim thereto.
Affidavit for Judgment & Writ of FIFA (FIERI FACIAS)on Consent Judgment
Purpose of form:
To provide for the issuance of a judgment when the defendant in judgment has failed to make payments in accordance with the terms of the consent judgment.
Example: The parties enter into a consent judgment, MAG11-01, providing for the payment of $1200.00 principle in equal monthly installments of $100.00 /month. The defendant makes 2 payments then defaults in making any additional payments. The plaintiff would use a form supplied by the Court to apply for a judgment amount of $1000.00 ($1200.00 - 2 payments of $100.00=$1000.00) + the issuance at that time of a fifa.
The sum of $7.00 is paid to the clerk of court so that a Writ of FIERI FACIAS can be issued and recorded. The plaintiff is required to submit a cancellation on the fifa when that debt is resolved. A sum of $5.00 is paid to the clerk of court so that cancellation is also recorded.
The Putnam County Sheriffs Department should be contacted to levy property under the Writ of FIERI FACIAS.
What are the four different types of garnishments?
1. Continuing Garnishments are filed against a person's place of employment and last for approximately seven months, or until the garnishment is satisfied, whichever comes first. The defendant's ' take home' pay will be attached each month. If the debt is not paid within the seven months, a new garnishment will have to be filed to collect the remaining balance.
2. Regular Garnishments are typically filed against a bank, credit union, brokerage firm, employer, business which owes judgment creditor money. This filing will capture the amount on file for or whatever might be in the account or owed at that time. In the case of commissions, it will capture 100% of commissions for one month, or whatever you file for. If the judgment creditor is self-employed, a regular garnishment will seize all sums up to the amount of the garnishment that the garnishee owes the self employed judgment creditor at that time
3. Support Garnishments are used to capture the periodic support for a family member. Alimony in the case of the awarded spouse, and child support in the case of children. The defendant must be behind at least one month in court ordered support before a Garnishment may be filed. 50% of the defendants 'take-home' pay will be attached. A Support Garnishment has no termination date; it lasts until a zero balance is reached, indicating that the defendant has become current on payments.
4. Tax Revenue Garnishments are filed by the Georgia Department of Revenue for unpaid Income Taxes and are not available to the public.
Are there any special requirements to file a garnishment against a financial institution?
Yes, see O.C.G.A. 18-4-20 (i) A summons of garnishment upon a financial institution, or attachment thereto, shall state with particularity all of the following information, to the extent reasonably available to the plaintiff:
(1) The name of the defendant, and, to the extent such would reasonably enable the garnishment answer properly the summons, all known configurations, nicknames, aliases, former or married names, trade names, or variations thereof;
(2) The service address and the current addresses of the defendant and, to the extent such is reasonable to enable the garnishee to answer properly the summons of garnishment and such is reasonably available to the plaintiff, the past addresses of the defendant;
(3) The social security number or federal tax identification number of the defendant; and
(4) Account, identification, or tracking numbers known or suspected by the plaintiff to be used by the garnishee in the identification or administration of the defendant's funds or property.
A misspelling of any information required by paragraph 91) or (2) of this subsection, other that the surname of a natural person defendant, shall not invalidate a summons of garnishment as such information is not misleading in a search of the garnishee's records.
The source of this information may be internal or external to the Putnam County Clerk of Courts. The Putnam County Clerk of Courts make reasonable efforts to verify this information. However, the information provided in this document is for your information only. The Clerk of Courts makes no explicit or implied claims to the validity of this information.
All information stated in this document was provided by the author. Please consult the author with any inquires pertaining to this document.