Georgia Court Records
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How Does the Georgia State Court Work?
Under Article VI, Section 1 of the Georgia Constitution, state courts are trial courts that have limited jurisdiction. Note, the jurisdiction of these courts only extends as far as the borders of each respective county. The court carries out the following functions;
- Hearing and determination of criminal offenses that are less than felonies
- Holding courts of inquiry
- Punishing contempt of court by fines not exceeding $1,000, by imprisonment not beyond 20 days, or both
- Hearing applications for the issuance of search and arrest warrants
- Trying of civil cases no matter the amount in controversy (unless such cases are exclusive to superior courts)
- Reviewing the decisions of other courts as provided by law
About 70 counties in Georgia have state courts. These courts have limited jurisdiction and cannot adjudicate over felonies. Litigants who are not satisfied with the judgment of the Georgia State Court can file an appeal. The Georgia Superior courts have appellate powers to handle cases from courts of limited jurisdiction like the state courts.
According to § 15–7–4 of the 2010 Georgia Code, Georgia state courts can only handle the following;
- Family law matters
- Issues from contractual arrangements
- Personal assaults
- Offenses that incur fines or imprisonment of not more than 20 days
- Cases of persons in possession of marijuana ( one ounce or less)
- Cases restricted to the county where the state court is present.
It is the function of the General Assembly through local laws to determine the establishment of judges in the Georgia state courts. The General Assembly also determines whether the judges are to serve full-time or part-time. The elected judges of the state court serve for a tenure of four years.
After a judge completes the four-year tenure, an election is conducted to determine the next judge. Whoever emerges the winner must resume office at the beginning of the year. The Governor of Georgia commissions the elected judges who go through the same oath-swearing process as superior court judges. Intending judges must meet the following requirements;
- Must be presently living in the relevant geographic area
- Must have resided in the state for three years before resuming office
- Must be at least twenty-five years old
- Must have been in the practice of law for at least seven years
There are special cases when the election period is over, and a candidate fails to meet the requirements above. In such cases, the superintendent of that county gives a 15-day election opportunity for candidates who;
- Meet all the requirements above, excluding residency
- Resides in the relevant county’s superior court judicial circuit
A Georgia state court judge offering full-time services must not practice law privately. Judges serving part-time may practice law privately in other courts except for the court the judge presides over. Judges of the state court have entitlements to compensations and allowances/salaries.
The judges of the Georgia state court are also subject to removal, disqualification, and suspension in the event of;
- Failure to carry out judicial functions
- Bringing disrepute to the judicial office through actions that are inconsistent with the administration of justice
- Wrongful convictions based on corruption
- Lack of moderation and comportment as an officer of the law
A judge of the Georgia State Court judge may be removed in any of the following ways:
- By the judicial qualifications commission. In such circumstances, the Georgia Supreme Court must review the decision.
- Conviction by a two-thirds vote of the Senate following an Impeachment by the state’s house of representatives
The office of any state court judge may also be vacated if the Supreme Court disbars or suspends from the practice of law any such judge, whether voluntary or involuntary. The governor can appoint a replacement judge for a judge facing suspension. After completing the terms and conditions of the suspension, the suspended judge may resume judicial duties.
Note, a retired judge of the Georgia State Court may serve as a judge of the court if the judge of a particular state court requests. In such cases, the retired judge exercises the same power and receives the same compensation as a regular state court judge. A retired judge of the Georgia state court has the same authority as an active judge to perform marriage ceremonies.
A Georgia state court retired judge may issue search warrants and arrest warrants just as an active judge can if an active judge of the state court authorizes it.
The Georgia Code creates a state court judges’ council called "The Council of State Court Judges of Georgia."” The council comprises judges, senior judges, and past judges of the state courts of Georgia. The council has the power to organize itself and to create a constitution and bylaws. The council has the duty to further the state court’s improvement, the judges’ expertise and quality, and the administration of justice.
The Administrative Office of the Courts provides technical services to the state court judges’ council and assists the council in meeting all its legal requirements.
Interested persons may access Georgia state records, excluding sealed or confidential by law. The Georgia Open Records Act makes State court records available for inspection and copying to the public. To access Georgia State Court records online, visit the Georgia Court’s website. Click on the relevant court and create an account on the site. Registering requires the requester’s email address, first and last name, a password, and a security question.
Generally, the information provided on a Georgia state court record includes:
- The case number
- The motions and court actions filed as well as the filing dates.
- The name of the judge that presided over the case
- The style of the case, i.e., the names of both parties to the case
- The case statute docket date
- The remittitur date
- The date the state court gave the ruling
- The names of the attorneys of both parties
- The opinion or order given by the state court