Trial Courts of Georgia

 

Superior Court

 

     Superior Courts are the highest level of trial courts of general jurisdiction.  Superior Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over felony cases (except cases involving juvenile offenders as provided by law), prosecuted by the District Attorney's Office, and cases regarding title to land, equity, and divorce.  Superior courts have general jurisdiction over civil law cases and misdemeanors.

 

     Georgia has 159 Superior Courts, one in each county.  In Superior Courts, a judge or a jury, hears witnesses' testimony, reviews evidence, and decides cases by applying the relevant law to the relevant facts

 

 

State Court

 

     State Courts are trial courts with limited jurisdiction covering misdemeanor and traffice violations, prosecuted by the Solicitor, and all civil actions, regardless of the amount, unless the Superior Court has exclusive jurisdiciton.  State Courts also handle preliminary felony matters.

 

     Georgia has 70 State Courts.

 

 

Juvenile Court

 

     Juvenile Courts exercise exclusive jurisdiction in cases involving delinquent, unruly and drprived children under the age of 17.  Juvenile Courts have concurrent jurisdiction with Superior Courts involving non-capital offenses, custody, child support, legitimation cases and termination of parental rights.

 

 

     Georgia has 159 Juvenile courts, one in each County.

 

 

Probate Court

     

     Probate Courts exercise jurisdiction in the probate of wills, the administration of estates, the appointment of guardians and the involuntary hospitalization of incapaciated adults.  The court also administers oaths of office and issued marriage licenses and gun permits.

 

     Georgia has 159 Probate Courts, one in each county.

 

 

Magistrate Court

 

     Magistrate courts are courts for civil claims of $15,000 or less, county ordinance violations, applications for and issuance of, arrest and search warrants, warrant applications hearings, dispossessory writs, distress warrants, and deposit accounty fraud.  No jury trials are held in this court.  Appeals from the court are made to the State or Superior Court.

     Georgia has 159 Magistrate Coruts, one in each county.

 

 

Court of Appeals

 

The Court of Appeals of Georgia is a court of review.  It exercises appellate and certiorari jurisdiciton in all cases not reserved to the Supreme Court of conferred on otehr courts of law.  It is not an intermediate court such as exists in most states.  Rather, this Court may e described as a court of final jurisdiction, subjct to certiorari, with statewide original appellate jurisdiction of all cases except those involving constitutional questions,  land title dispurte, equity, the construction of wills, murder, election contests, habeaus corpus, extraordinary remedies, divorce and alimony, and cases where original appellate jurisdiction lies with the Superior Courts.  The Court of Appeals may certify such legal questions as it may wish to the Supreme Court.  However, certification is rarely used an din practive the Supreme Court has limited the exercise of its right to certirrari.

 

     The first sessions of th eCourt of Appeals were held in what had been the single courtroom located in the State C apitol building.  Initially, it was used in theafternoons by the Court of  Appeals and in the mornings by its brother t ribuna.  Later, this same courtroom continued to be used by both courts, sitting on separate days, until the State Judicial Building was completed in 1856.  A report of the dedication proceedings of the present courtroom appears in 93 GA. App. 901.  The speakers properly noted the motto engracved upon the marble wall behind the bench; "Upon the integrity, wisdom and independence of the judiciary depend the sacred rights of free men."  The credo was conceived and formulated by Chief Judge Jule Wimberly Felton, as documented in the mrmorial service for Judge Felton held June 7, 1979, and reported in 243 Georgia XXIX.  In 1992, Court of Appeals revised its motto to read; "Upon the ingegrity, wisdom and independence of the judiciary depend the sacred rights of freemen and women."  these thought provoking words have served well for many years an dcontinue to inspire the Court of Appeals.

 

     

Supreme Court of Georgia

 

     The Supreme Court of Georgia is this state's highest court.  Although Georgia's constitution was amended in 1835 to authorize a Supreme Court, Acts of 1835, p. 49, it was not until 1845 that the Legislature established an appelate court, Acts of 1845, p.18.  The Supreme Court is a court of review, meaning it is a court for the correction of errors of law.  Prior to 1845 a new trial before a new jury i the local court was the only procedure available for the correction of judicial error.  

 

     The Supreme Court's first session was held at Talbotton, GA on January 26, 1846.  The first three judges chosen by the General Assembly to serve on the Court were Joseph Henry Lumpkin of Athen, Eugenius A. Nisbet of Macon and Hiram Warner of Greenville.  Their salaries were set at $2500.00 per year.  At the time of the creation of the Supreme Court, Georgia's population stood at approximately 800,000.  The state was divided into eleven Superior Court circuits, and the judges of the Supreme C ourt traveled the state, holding court in nine different localities during the course of the year.  Travel, at each judge's own expense, amounted to over 1,000 miles per year, only 300 of which were covered by railroad.  Cases were decided at th term submitted; decisions were handed down from the bench orally and only later reduced to writing.  The hardships involved in  riding the circuit lasted until shortly after the Civil War when the Constitution of 1865 provided that the Court would sit at the seat of government.

 

     The Constitution was amended in 1896 to provide for the addition of three justices to the Court and to provide that judtices and the chief justice would be elected by the people.  A seventh justice was added by the Contitution of 1945 and since that time the composition of the  Court has remained thesame.  

 

THE COURT'S JURISDICTION

 

     The 1983 State Constitution provides that the Supreme Court shall be a court of review and shall exercise exclusive appellate jurisdiction in the following cases:

 

  •  all cases involving the construction of a treaty or of the Constitution of the State of Georgia or of the United States and all cases in which the constitutionality of a law, ordinance or constitutional provision has been drawn in question; and 

 

  • all cases of election contest; and that unless otherwise provided by law it shall have appellate jurisdiction of:

 

  •      cases involving title to land,

 

  •      all equity cases, 

 

  •      all cases involving wills, 

 

  •      all habeaus corpus cases, 

 

  •      all cases involving extraordinary remedies, 

 

  •      all divorce and alimony cases, 

 

  •      all cases certified to it by the Court of Appeals, and 

 

  •      all cases in which a sentence of death was imposed or could be imposed.

 

     Additionally, the Supreme Court may answer any question of law from any state or federal appellate court and may review by certiorari cases in the Court of Appeals which are gravity or great public importance.

 

    The Supreme Court has power to make such orders as are necessary in aid of its jurisdiction ot ro protedct of effectuate its judgements.