You might have watched a police show on television, where an officer calls in a request to a judge for a search warrant. If this call were from a police department operating in Cobb County, a judge from the Cobb County Magistrate Court would be on the other end of the conversation.
Duties of the Cobb County Magistrate Court
But the Cobb magistrate court does a lot more than issue warrants. The magistrate court’s defining feature is that it’s set up to handle civil and criminal legal issues that don’t require trial,
Probable cause and bond hearings
Cobb magistrate court holds hearings to determine whether there is probable cause to send a suspect in a crime to Superior Court for trial. This doesn’t mean the court determines guilt or innocence. It just means there is enough evidence to put the suspect on trial. In these hearings, a law enforcement officer testifies about why a suspect was arrested, and the officer is then questioned by an assistant district attorney and the defense attorney for the suspect. The Cobb magistrate judge then determines whether there was probable cause for the arrest. The suspect is present in the room for the hearing. Bond is usually set, reduced, or denied along with the probable cause hearing.
Warrants for bad checks
Warrants for bad checks are issued by the Cobb magistrate court. A warrant for writing a bad check can be taken out if the person writing the check knew beforehand that the check would not be honored by the bank or other financial institution it was written on. The website of the magistrate court has instructions for applying for a warrant and the necessary forms.
Since the magistrate courts in Georgia absorbed the duties of the Justice of the Peace system (see the history below) the judges conduct wedding ceremonies. Here is a description of the hours and requirements from the magistrate court website:
Wedding ceremonies will be held seven days a week at 6:00 p.m. Additionally, ceremonies will be held on Saturdays and County holidays at 12:00 p.m. The County holidays are as follows: New Years Day, Martin Luther King Day, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Holidays and Christmas Holidays.
The parties must present a valid marriage license, which can be obtained from the Cobb County Probate Court. (Questions regarding marriage license should be directed to the Probate Court at 770 528-1932.)
Parties wishing to be married should report to the Magistrate Court Clerk’s Office by 11:30 a.m. for a 12:00 noon ceremony and by 5:30 p.m. for a 6:00 p.m. ceremony. (Questions regarding the ceremony should be directed to the Magistrate Court at 770 528-8900).
If you are in the unfortunate position of being on either side in garnishment proceeding, Cobb magistrate court is in charge of the process. What is a garnishment? The Associated Press Stylebook defines garnish as “to attach property or wages as a result of a legal action. A garnishee is an individual whose property was attached, or garnished.” In other words, an individual or company is owed money. The debtor doesn’t pay. The person or institution owed the debt initiates garnishment proceedings. The money is taken from the debtor’s wages, bank account, or other property.
The Cobb magistrate court states the requirements for garnishment, what forms it requires, and other details on its website.
The magistrate court is also sometimes referred to as Small Claims Court. You can file a small claim you are seeking an amount of $15,000.00 or less. The magistrate court also has a mediation service for small claims. It started in 1994, and the Cobb County Magistrate Court was the first court in Georgia with such a program.
The magistrate court website describes the program as follows:
Mediation is a process by which a Neutral facilitates settlement discussions between parties. The Neutral has no authority to make a decision or impose a settlement upon the parties. The Neutral attempts to focus the attention of the parties upon their needs and interests rather than upon rights and positions. In the absence of a settlement, the parties are still eligible to appear before a judge to plead their case.
More information about Cobb County Magistrate Court
The 1983 Georgia Constitution consolidated the justices of the peace and the small claims courts into the magistrate courts.
The Cobb County Magistrate Court is led by Chief Magistrate Joyette Holmes, who appoints the other magistrate judges. She is a Republican, and joined the court in 2015, winning an election for her first full term in 2016. She was the first African-American and the first woman to serve as a magistrate court judge in Cobb County.
The court has duties other than those highlighted above. For more information visit the court’s website.