Structure & Processes of the Georgia Judicial Branch

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  • 0:01 The Georgia Judicial Branch
  • 0:45 Municipal Courts
  • 1:32 State Courts
  • 3:37 Appellate Courts
  • 5:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

In this lesson, you will explore the levels and divisions within the Georgia judicial branch, and discover how the state protects the law. Then, test your understanding with a brief quiz.

The Georgia Judicial Branch

Everyone knows that when devils are looking for souls to steal, they head down to Georgia and trick people into elaborate fiddle contests. But theft is illegal in Georgia, and so these devils get themselves into all sorts of trouble and have to answer to the Georgia judiciary, the branch of the state government responsible for upholding the law. Georgia's justice system is intricate and complex, and so they have an entire state agency responsible for administering the courts, called the judicial council. Let's take a look at the many levels of Georgia's judiciary, but try to stay out of trouble, you devil you.

Municipal Courts

When devils go down to Georgia and get into legal trouble, they may have to answer to one of several different courts, depending on the violation. Let's start at the bottom. Every town that has its own town government is called a municipality, and each municipality has its own municipal courts that uphold town laws and prosecute violations. Georgia has roughly 400 municipal courts, and they can charge fines, issue warrants, and conduct preliminary hearings against minor criminal offenses. Say that this little devil built extra buildings on his property that violate local building codes. Well, now he's going to face fines and penalties, and the municipal courts can order him to remove the structure.

State Courts

In most of Georgia, each of the courts at the next level after municipal have jurisdiction over an entire county, although they are operated by the state. There are two real distinctions in these types of courts: those with juries and those without. Courts without juries are called magistrate courts, since decisions are made by a magistrate or judge. These courts mostly deal with small civil claims, like minor lawsuits, county ordinance violations and misdemeanor account fraud, or bad checks. Juvenile courts, which are courts for people under the age of 17, are also without juries.

More serious crimes are charged in courts with juries, which also include several sub-types. Probate courts are used to resolve disputes in wills and estates, issue marriage licenses, and appoint legal guardians. Seventy of Georgia's 159 counties also have a state court that prosecutes misdemeanors, traffic offenses, and civil action cases. However, the most powerful court in every county is the superior court, where cases involving felonies, divorce, and property disputes are taken to trial. These are the courts where people are tried for crimes against the state, like breaking major laws.

Say that each of these three devils broke a law. The first wrote a series of bad checks, but they weren't enough to be a felony. He's prosecuted in a magistrate court and is fined. The second little devil broke a law by trespassing on someone's property. This isn't bad enough to deserve more than a year in prison, so it's a misdemeanor, and he's prosecuted by a state court. The third little devil was caught trying to steal a soul during a fiddle contest, and that's a major crime punishable by more than a year in prison, which makes it a felony. So, that devil goes to trial before a superior court.

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