You were injured and have filed a lawsuit, what judge will hear my case?  We get asked this question all the time.  In Georgia, the type of judge who will hear your case depends on what type of injury you have and where you, or your lawyer, decide to file the lawsuit.  In general, Georgia has 4 types of courts (Federal, Superior, State, Magistrate, Administrative).  This post will give a basic overview of what types of cases each court hears.

Superior Court

In Georgia, the superior court is a trial court with general jurisdiction, meaning it has the authority to hear a wide range of cases. Superior court judges in Georgia handle both civil and criminal cases.  Some Superior Courts have multiple judges due to the amount of cases they hear.  Some common types of cases that may be heard in a superior court in Georgia include:

  1. Civil Cases:
    • Torts: Personal injury cases, including car accidents and medical malpractice.
    • Contracts: Cases involving breach of contract or disputes over contractual agreements.
    • Property: Cases related to real estate, such as boundary disputes or landlord-tenant issues.
    • Family Law: Divorce, child custody, child support, and other family-related cases.
  2. Criminal Cases:
    • Felonies: More serious criminal offenses, such as murder, burglary, and drug trafficking.
    • Misdemeanors: Less serious criminal offenses, such as simple assault, petty theft, and DUI.
  3. Appeals:
    • Superior courts may hear appeals from lower courts within their jurisdiction.

It's important to note that the specific jurisdiction of a superior court judge can vary depending on the judicial circuit within Georgia. Each county in Georgia is part of a judicial circuit, and superior court judges preside over cases within their assigned circuit.  For example, Carroll County is in the "Coweta Judicial Circuit".  The Coweta Judicial Circuit includes Coweta, Carroll, Troup, Meriwether, and Heard Counties.  There are currently 7 judges in the Coweta Judicial Circuit.

State Court

State court judges in Georgia have jurisdiction over a variety of cases, both civil and criminal.  Each county in Georgia is required to have at least 1 state court judge.  Here are some common types of cases that state court judges in Georgia may handle:

  1. Civil Cases:
    • Tort Cases: Personal injury cases, including car accidents and slip-and-fall incidents.
    • Contract Disputes: Cases involving breach of contract or disputes over contractual agreements.
    • Property Disputes: Cases related to real estate, landlord-tenant issues, and property damage.
  2. Criminal Cases:
    • Misdemeanors: Less serious criminal offenses, such as simple assault, petty theft, and disorderly conduct.
    • Preliminary Hearings: State court judges may conduct preliminary hearings to determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed to trial in felony cases.
    • Traffic Offenses: Cases involving traffic violations, such as speeding and reckless driving
  3. Specialized Courts:
      • Some state courts may have specialized divisions or programs, such as drug courts or mental health courts, which focus on specific types of cases.

Magistrate Court

Magistrate courts in Georgia handle a variety of civil and criminal matters, typically involving less serious offenses and smaller financial claims. Magistrate courts are designed to provide a more accessible and efficient forum for resolving disputes. Magistrate courts can be county wide, or individual cities can create their own magistrate courts.  The types of cases Gerogia magistrate courts  may hear include:

  1. Civil Cases:
    • Small Claims: Magistrate courts often handle small claims cases  involving disputes over money ((less than $15,000) or property.
    • Landlord-Tenant Disputes: Cases related to issues between landlords and tenants, such as eviction proceedings and disputes over security deposits.
    • Contract Disputes: Cases involving breach of contract or disagreements over contractual obligations.
  2. Criminal Cases:
    • Misdemeanors: Magistrate courts have jurisdiction over certain misdemeanor offenses, including minor criminal offenses such as simple assault, shoplifting, and disorderly conduct.
    • Traffic Violations: Magistrate courts may handle cases related to traffic violations, including speeding tickets and other minor infractions.
  3. Preliminary Hearings:
    • Magistrate courts may conduct preliminary hearings in felony cases to determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed to trial in a higher court.
  4. Issuing Warrants and Bonds:
    • Magistrate judges have the authority to issue arrest warrants and search warrants.
    • They may also set bail or bond conditions for individuals awaiting trial.
  5. Civil Garnishments and Distress Warrants:
    • Magistrate courts may handle cases related to civil garnishments, which involve the withholding of wages to satisfy a debt.
    • Distress warrants may be issued in cases of landlord-tenant disputes to recover possession of leased property.

Administrative Courts

Georgia has several administrative courts and agencies that handle specific types of cases and disputes. Administrative judges, also know as "ALJ's" typically deal with matters involving state regulations, government actions, and specific areas of law. Keep in mind that the structure and names of these courts may be subject to change, and new developments may have occurred since my last update. Here are some key administrative courts and agencies in Georgia:

  1. Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings (OSAH):
    • The Office of State Administrative Hearings is an independent agency that conducts hearings and renders decisions in contested cases between private parties and state agencies. OSAH covers a wide range of administrative law matters.
  2. Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC):
    • The Georgia Public Service Commission regulates utilities and services such as telecommunications, natural gas, and electricity. The PSC holds hearings and makes decisions on issues related to rates, services, and other regulatory matters.
  3. Georgia State Board of Workers' Compensation:
    • The Georgia Workers' Compensation Board oversees the state's workers' compensation system. It handles disputes between employees and employers regarding work-related injuries and benefits.
  4. Georgia Department of Labor (DOL):
    • The Georgia Department of Labor administers and enforces labor laws in the state. It may handle cases related to unemployment benefits, workplace safety, and wage and hour disputes.
  5. Georgia Department of Revenue (DOR):
    • The Georgia Department of Revenue is responsible for administering state tax laws. Disputes related to taxation may be addressed through administrative processes within the DOR.
  6. Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR):
    • The Georgia Department of Natural Resources oversees natural resources, including wildlife, parks, and environmental protection. Cases related to environmental regulations may be addressed through administrative processes within the DNR.
  7. Georgia Composite Medical Board:
    • The Georgia Composite Medical Board regulates the practice of medicine in the state. It may handle disciplinary actions against medical professionals and other matters related to healthcare.
  8. Georgia Board of Regents:
    • The Georgia Board of Regents oversees the state's public universities and colleges. It may handle certain administrative matters related to education policies and institutions.

Federal Court

Federal courts in the United States have limited jurisdiction and hear cases that involve federal law, disputes between parties from different states, and certain types of cases specified in the U.S. Constitution.  Georgia is currently divided into 2 federal districts, the Northern District of Georgia and the Southern District of Georgia.  Here are the main types of cases heard in federal courts:

  1. Federal Question Cases:
    • Cases that arise under the U.S. Constitution, federal laws, or treaties fall under federal question jurisdiction. This includes cases involving constitutional issues, violations of federal statutes, or disputes involving federal regulations.
  2. Diversity of Citizenship Cases:
    • Federal courts can hear cases based on diversity of citizenship, meaning the parties are from different states or are citizens of a foreign country. The amount in controversy must exceed a statutory threshold (as of my last knowledge update in January 2022, it was $75,000) for the federal court to have jurisdiction.
  3. Bankruptcy Cases:
    • Federal bankruptcy courts handle matters related to bankruptcy filings, including Chapter 7 liquidations, Chapter 11 reorganizations, and Chapter 13 debt repayment plans.
  4. Admiralty and Maritime Cases:
    • Federal courts have jurisdiction over cases involving admiralty and maritime law, which deals with disputes related to navigable waters, shipping, and maritime commerce.
  5. Intellectual Property Cases:
    • Cases involving patents, trademarks, copyrights, and other forms of intellectual property are heard in federal courts. This includes disputes over infringement, licensing, and protection of intellectual property rights.
  6. Federal Criminal Cases:
    • Federal courts handle criminal cases involving violations of federal law. This can include offenses such as drug trafficking, immigration violations, white-collar crimes, and offenses occurring on federal property.
  7. Civil Rights Cases:
    • Cases involving alleged violations of individuals' civil rights under federal law, such as those protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), may be heard in federal court.
  8. Antitrust Cases:
    • Federal courts handle cases related to antitrust laws, which are designed to promote fair competition and prevent monopolistic practices.
  9. Class Action Lawsuits:
    • Class action lawsuits that meet certain criteria, such as numerosity and commonality of issues, may be filed in federal court. These cases involve a group of individuals with similar claims against a defendant.
  10. Environmental Cases:
    • Cases involving violations of federal environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act or the Clean Water Act, may be heard in federal court.

It's important to note that federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and their authority is derived from the U.S. Constitution and federal statutes. Cases that do not fall within federal jurisdiction are generally heard in state courts (Superior, State, Magistrate, or Administrative).


Georgia Accident Lawyers

If someone asked you the most dangerous season of year to drive, what would your answer be?  If you guess Fall, you would are correct.  Fall is the most dangerous time of the year to drive, even more dangerous than winter.  Not  too many people realize it, but fall is the most dangerous season with a motorist’s risk of being involved in car accidents at its highest during these days.

Carfax recently announced that according to its data, it is autumn and not winter which is the deadliest season of the year for drivers.  In fact, according to the data, more than 72% of Americans live in states like Georgia where fall is the deadliest season of the year with the highest number of auto accidents recorded.

There are a number of reasons why the risk of car accidents is greater during fall season compared to other times of the year, but the 3 biggest culprits of increased accident are:

  1. Diminishing daylight: Fall means shorter days, and that means more driving in the dark, when drivers are twice as likely to have an accident as in daylight.  The data indicated  half of U.S. accidents happen in the dark, but those hours account for only 25% of travel.
  2. Slick surfaces: Wet leaves brought down by storms can be as slippery as ice.  Experts noted that braking on wet leaves can make a car travel more than twice as far as braking on a dry road.
  3. Deer danger: Mating season for deer runs from October through December, and nearly half of deer crashes nationwide happen in just those three months.  In addition, one study noted that deer-car collisions spike almost 16% in the week after the end of Daylight Saving Time because of the jump to an earlier sunset.

Avoid becoming a car accident statistic this Fall by following a few simple steps.

If you have been injured in a car accident, give our lawyers a call at 770-214-2500 for a free consultation.

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