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Each magistrate court and each magistrate thereof shall have jurisdiction and power over the following matters:
(5) The trial of civil claims including garnishment and attachment in which exclusive jurisdiction is not vested in the superior court and the amount demanded or the value of the property claimed does not exceed $15,000.00, provided that no prejudgment attachment may be granted;
15-10-41. No jury trials; appeal
- (a) There shall be no jury trials in the magistrate court.
- Except as otherwise provided in this subsection, appeals may be had from judgments returned in the magistrate court to the state court of the county or to the superior court of the county and the same provisions now provided for by general law for appeals contained in Article 2 of Chapter 3 of Title 5 shall be applicable to appeals from the magistrate court, the same to be a de novo appeal. The provisions of said Article 2 of Chapter 3 of Title 5 shall also apply to appeals to state court.
- No appeal shall lie from a default judgment. Review shall be by certiorari to the state court of that county or to the superior court of that county.
15-10-42. Civil Practice Act inapplicable to magistrate courts
Proceedings in the magistrate court shall not be subject to Chapter 11 of Title 9, the "Georgia Civil Practice Act."
MAGISTRATE COURTS MAY FOLLOW CIVIL PRACTICE ACT. --The language of O.C.G.A. § 15-10-42, that magistrate courts are not subject to the Civil Practice Act, O.C.G.A. Ch. 11, T. 9, must be read to permit, rather than require, magistrate courts to follow the provisions of the Civil Practice Act, or any other appropriate rules and regulations relating to pleading, practice, and procedure, where to do so would 'administer justice' under O.C.G.A. § 15-10-44. Howe v. Roberts, 259 Ga. 617, 385 S.E.2d 276 (1989).
15-10-43. Statement of claim; service of process; answer to claim; default judgments; opening of default; relief in magistrate court
- (a) Actions shall be commenced by the filing of a statement of claim, including the last known address of the defendant, in concise form and free from technicalities. The plaintiff or his or her agent shall sign and verify the statement of claim by oath or affirmation. At the request of any individual, the judge or clerk may prepare the statement of claim and other papers required to be filed in an action. The statement of claim shall include the address at which the plaintiff desires to receive the notice of hearing.
- (b) A copy of the verified statement of claim shall be served on the defendant personally, or by leaving a copy thereof at the defendant's dwelling or usual place of abode with some person of suitable age and discretion then residing therein, or by delivering a copy of the claim to an agent authorized by appointment or by law to receive service of process, and such service shall be sufficient. Service of said process shall be made within the county as provided in this Code section. Service outside the county shall be by second original as provided in Code Section 9-10-72. Said service shall be made by any official or person authorized by law to serve process in the superior court, by a constable, or by any person sui juris who is not a party to, or otherwise interested in, the action, who is specially appointed by the judge of said court for that purpose. When the claim and notice are served by a private individual, such individual shall make proof of service by affidavit, showing the time and place of such service on the defendant.
- (c) An answer to the claim must be filed with the court or orally presented to the judge or clerk of the court within 30 days after service of the statement of claim on the defendant to avoid a default. The answer shall be in concise form and free from technical requirements, but must admit or deny the claim of the plaintiff. The answer shall contain the address at which the defendant desires to receive the notice of hearing. If the answer is presented to the judge or clerk orally, the judge or clerk shall reduce the answer to writing. A copy of the answer shall be forwarded to the plaintiff and defendant with the notice of hearing. If an answer is timely filed or presented, the court shall within ten days of filing or presentation of the answer notify the defendant and the plaintiff of the calling of a hearing on the claim. The notice shall include the date, hour, and location of the hearing, which date shall be not less than 15 nor more than 30 days after the date the notice is given. The notice shall be served on the plaintiff and the defendant by mail or personal service to the address given by the plaintiff at the time he or she files his or her claim and the address given by the defendant at the time he or she files or presents his or her answer. The date of mailing shall be the date the notice is given. The clerk shall enter a certificate of service.
- (d) Upon failure of the defendant to answer the claim within 30 days after service of the statement of claim, the defendant shall be in default. The defaulting party may open the default upon filing an answer and upon payment of costs within 15 days of default. If the defendant is still in default after the expiration of 15 days after the answer is due, the plaintiff shall be entitled to a default judgment without further proof if the claim is for liquidated damages. When the claim is for unliquidated damages, the plaintiff must offer proof of the damage amount. Separate notice of the date and time of the unliquidated damages hearing shall be sent to the defendant at his or her service address. The defendant shall be allowed to submit evidence at that hearing on the issue of the amount of damage only.
- When a hearing is scheduled pursuant to subsection (c) of this Code section, upon failure of the defendant to appear for the hearing, the plaintiff shall be entitled to have the defendant's answer stricken and a default judgment entered. If the claim is for liquidated damages, the plaintiff shall be entitled to take a judgment in the amount set forth in the complaint without further proof. If the claim is for unliquidated damages, the plaintiff shall proceed to prove his or her damages and take judgment in an amount determined by the judge.
- When a hearing is scheduled pursuant to subsection (d) of this Code section, upon failure of the defendant to appear, the plaintiff shall be entitled to submit proof of the damages and take judgment in an amount determined by the judge.
- If the plaintiff fails to appear for a hearing scheduled pursuant to either subsection (c) or (d) of this Code section, the court on motion of the defendant, or on its own motion, may dismiss the plaintiff's complaint, with or without prejudice, in the discretion of the court.
- (f) At any time before final judgment, the court, in its discretion, upon payment of costs, may allow the default to be opened for providential cause preventing the filing of required pleadings or for excusable neglect or where the judge, from all the facts, shall determine that a proper case has been made for the default to be opened, on terms to be fixed by the court. In order to allow the default to be thus opened, the showing shall be made under oath, shall set up a meritorious defense, shall offer to plead instanter, and shall announce ready to proceed with the trial.
- (g) Notwithstanding the provisions of Code Section 15-10-42, the magistrate court may grant relief from a judgment under the same circumstances as the state court may grant such relief. Requests for relief from judgments in the magistrate court shall be by filing a new action pursuant to this Code section. The procedure shall then be the same as in other cases except the court may assess costs as seem just.
- (h) A complaint in equity to set aside a judgment of the magistrate court may be brought under the same circumstances as a complaint to set aside a judgment in a court of record.
- (i) Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prohibit an employee of any corporation or other legal entity from representing the corporation or legal entity before the magistrate court.
15-10-44. Trial Procedure
- (a) The trial shall be conducted on the day set for the hearing, or at such later time as the judge may set. Immediately prior to the trial of any case, the judge shall counsel the parties to make an earnest effort to settle the controversy by conciliation. If the parties fail to settle their differences without a trial, the judge shall proceed with the hearing on its merits.
- (b) The judge shall conduct the trial in such manner as to do substantial justice between the parties according to the rules of substantive law. All rules and regulations relating to pleading, practice, and procedure shall be liberally construed so as to administer justice.
- (c) If the plaintiff fails to appear, the action may be dismissed for want of prosecution, the defendant may proceed to a trial on the merits, or the case may be continued as the judge may direct. If both parties fail to appear, the judge may continue the case, order the same dismissed for want of prosecution, or make any other just and proper disposition thereof, as justice may require.
15-10-45. Compulsory and permissive counterclaims
- (a) If any defendant has a claim against the plaintiff arising out of the transaction or occurrence that is the subject matter of the plaintiff's claim, which claim does not require for its adjudication the presence of third parties over whom the court cannot obtain jurisdiction, such claim must be asserted by the defendant at or before the hearing on plaintiff's claim or thereafter be barred.
- (b) If any defendant has a claim against the plaintiff other than a compulsory counterclaim described in subsection (a) of this Code section, such claim may be asserted by the defendant at or before the hearing on the plaintiff's claim.
- (c) If any defendant asserts a claim against the plaintiff, the defendant shall file with the court a statement of the claim in concise form and free from technicalities. The defendant shall sign and verify the statement of claim by oath or affirmation. At the request of a defendant, the judge or clerk may prepare the statement.
- (d) If the amount of a counterclaim exceeds the jurisdictional limits of the magistrate court, the case shall be transferred to any court of the county which has jurisdictional limits which exceed the amount of the counterclaim. If there is more than one court to which the action may be transferred, the parties may agree on the court to which the action shall be transferred, and, in the absence of any agreement, the judge of the magistrate court shall determine the court to which the action shall be transferred. If there is no other court to which the action may be transferred, it shall be transferred to the superior court of the county.
- (e) A counterclaim may in the discretion of the magistrate be tried either separately or jointly with the plaintiff's claim.
15-10-46. Ordering deferred partial payment of judgment
- (a) When the judgment is to be rendered and the party against whom it is to be entered requests it, the judge shall inquire fully into the earnings and financial status of such party and shall have full discretionary power to stay the entry of judgment, to stay execution, and to order partial payments in such amounts, over such periods, and upon such terms as seem just under the circumstances and as will assure a definite and steady reduction of the judgment until it is fully and completely satisfied.
- (b) The judge of the magistrate court shall not be obligated to collect such deferred partial payments on judgments so rendered but, if the plaintiff so requests, he may do so at the expense of the plaintiff for clerical and accounting costs incurred thereby, not to exceed 10 percent of each payment.
15-10-47. Effect, recordation, execution, and enforcement of money judgments; fee for recordation
- (a) Except where otherwise provided by law, the general laws and rules applicable to the effect, recordation, execution, and enforcement of money judgments in civil cases in the superior courts of this state shall be applicable to and govern the magistrate courts.
- (b) Upon the issuance of any execution by the magistrate court, the clerk of the magistrate court shall immediately transmit a copy of the execution to the clerk of superior court of the county. The fee of the clerk of superior court for recording the execution on the general execution docket shall be charged and collected by the magistrate court contemporaneously with or prior to the issuance of the execution but not before the entry of judgment in the action; and such fee shall be transmitted by the clerk of magistrate court to the clerk of superior court together with the copy of the execution. The clerk of the superior court shall immediately enter the execution upon the general execution docket in the same manner as executions issued by the superior court, without the necessity of any action by the plaintiff in fi. fa.
15-10-48. Form of Statement of Claim, verification, and notice
The statement of claim, verification, and notice shall be in substantially the following form:
Magistrate Court of County
State of Georgia
Statement of Claim
(Here the plaintiff or, at his request, the court will insert a statement of the plaintiff's claim and, if the action is on a contract, either express or implied, the original statement of the plaintiff's claim which is to be filed with the court may be verified by the plaintiff or his agent as follows:)
STATE OF GEORGIA
, being first duly sworn on oath, says the foregoing is a just and true statement of the amount owing by defendant to plaintiff, exclusive of all setoffs and just grounds of defense.
Plaintiff or agent
Sworn and subscribed
before me this
day of , .
Notary public or attesting official.
Home address or
You are hereby notified that has made a claim and is requesting judgment against you in the sum of dollars ($ ), as shown by the foregoing statement. The court will hold a hearing upon this claim at (address of court) at a time to be set after your answer is filed.
YOU ARE REQUIRED TO FILE OR PRESENT AN ANSWER 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 have witnesses, books, receipts, or other writings bearing on this claim, you should bring them with you at the time of hearing.
If you wish to have witnesses summoned, see the court at once for assistance.
If you have any claim against the plaintiff, you should notify the court at once.
If you admit the claim, but desire additional time to pay, you must come to the hearing in person and state the circumstances to the court.
You may come with or without an attorney.
15-10-50. Propounding of interrogatories to judgment debtor; form; contempt; authorized discovery processes
- (a) In aid of any judgment or execution issued by any court in this state upon which the unpaid balance does not exceed the jurisdictional amount for civil claims in magistrate court as provided in paragraph (5) of Code Section 15-10-2, the judgment creditor or his successor in interest when that interest appears of record, may, in addition to any other process or remedy provided by law, examine the judgment debtor by propounding the interrogatories specified in this Code section in the manner provided in this Code section.
- (b) If the judgment or execution concerning which interrogatories are being propounded was issued by the magistrate court the judgment creditor may, within 30 days after the entry of judgment, file the form interrogatories specified in this Code section with the clerk of the same magistrate court, along with costs of $10.00. Interrogatories filed under this subsection shall be served upon the judgment debtor by certified mail or statutory overnight delivery.
- (c) Interrogatories propounded pursuant to a judgment entered more than 30 days previously or entered in any other court shall be filed as a new civil action and shall be accompanied by the filing and service fees required for civil actions in that magistrate court. Interrogatories propounded under this subsection shall be served upon the judgment debtor in the manner provided for service of process in civil actions in magistrate court.
- (d) The interrogatories, verification, and notice shall be in substantially the following form:
Magistrate Court of County
State of Georgia
Current Civil Action File No.
Original Civil Action File No.
Court where original judgment entered:
TO: , Defendant in the above-styled action:
The Plaintiff in the above-styled action requests that you answer the following interrogatories separately, fully, and under oath and serve such answers on said plaintiff at plaintiff's address shown above by mail or hand delivery within 30 days after the service of these interrogatories.
- List your full name, home phone number, and address, including apartment number and ZIP Code.
- List the name, address, and phone number of your employer(s).
- Describe and state the location of each piece of real estate in which you own any interest.
- Give the name, address, phone number, and a description of the nature of any business venture in which you own any interest.
- List the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all persons who owe money to you and specify the amounts owed.
- List the names and addresses of all banks or savings institutions where you have any sums of money deposited and identify the accounts by number.
- List and give the present location of all items of personal property owned by you that have a value of more than $100.00.
STATE OF GEORGIA, COUNTY OF
, being first duly sworn on oath, says the foregoing are true and complete answers to the interrogatories propounded by plaintiff to defendant.
Sworn and subscribed
before me this
day of , .
Notary public or attesting official.
YOU ARE REQUIRED TO PROVIDE COMPLETE ANSWERS TO THE ABOVE-STATED QUESTIONS TO THE PLAINTIFF WITHIN 30 DAYS AFTER SERVICE OF THESE INTERROGATORIES UPON YOU. IF YOU DO NOT ANSWER, OR DO NOT ANSWER COMPLETELY, YOU MAY BECOME SUBJECT TO THE SANCTIONS PROVIDED BY LAW FOR CONTEMPT OF COURT. IF YOU NEED FURTHER INSTRUCTION OR IF YOU NEED ASSISTANCE IN ANSWERING THE QUESTIONS CONTACT THE COURT AT ONCE.
- (e) The court in its discretion may limit the number of times interrogatories may be propounded upon a judgment debtor, may relieve a judgment debtor of the obligation to answer one or more propounded interrogatories, and may for good cause shown enlarge the time for answering any interrogatory. The court may if necessary compel the answering of interrogatories, but the sanction of contempt shall be applied only after notice and an opportunity for hearing and a showing of willful failure to answer or willful failure to answer fully and truthfully.
- (f) An evasive or incomplete answer to an interrogatory shall be treated as a failure to answer.
- (g) Notwithstanding the provisions of Code Section 15-10-42, in any case involving writs and judgments in dispossessory or distress warrant proceedings under paragraph (6) of Code Section 15-10-2 in which the judgment exceeds the amount of $5,000.00, the judgment creditor or a successor in interest when that interest appears of record may, in addition to any other process or remedy provided by law, utilize the discovery provisions set forth in Code Section 9-11-69.