Georgia Credit Lawsuits

Information about credit card and other debt collection lawsuits in Georgia

The three types of courts that hear credit card lawsuits in Georgia

This post is intended to provide a brief introduction to the court system in Georgia. This is not a comprehensive overview. Further, this introduction to the Georgia court system is geared towards credit card lawsuits.

The three different types of trial courts

There are three different types of trial courts in Georgia—Magistrate Court, State Court, and Superior Court.

There are other courts as well, however. For example, every Georgia county has a Probate Court. Many cities have a municipal court. Some counties have what is called a Recorder’s Court.

Credit card lawsuits are not generally filed in these courts. Probate courts focus on the probate and intestate process of disposing of the estate of someone who died. Recorders courts tend to focus on traffic-related crimes (such as speeding tickets). Municipal courts are like magistrate courts, and could be a place to bring a credit lawsuit, but most creditors use that county’s magistrate court so they can consolidate where there cases are handled.

Magistrate Courts are small claims courts

Court Limits & Case Types

Magistrate courts cannot hear cases where more than $15,000 in damages are sought. This does not include any attorney fees or the the award of court costs. Magistrate courts also cannot handle equity cases. Credit card lawsuits in Georgia are not equity cases. Magistrate court cases do not go before a jury—a judge decides both the issues of fact and law in a magistrate court case.

Court rules & procedures

Complaints (or petitions), answers, and motions are filed with the clerk of the magistrate court. Magistrate court does not follow the Georgia Civil Practice Act. This means cases in magistrate court do not have the process called “Discovery.” I will discuss “Discovery” in more detail in a future posts, but this is process where both sides get to ask the other side questions and for documents related to the case. Magistrate courts in Georgia must follow the Georgia laws of evidence, however.

Other Court Quirks

Magistrate court is designed to be your county’s small claims court.  Therefore, the rules are more relaxed and the judge tends to guide the court case more than a judge in a state or superior court. In fact, the judges in a magistrate court may not even be lawyers. (Although they do receive training by the state.)

Appeals from Magistrate Court

The losing party in a magistrate court case can appeal the case up to the county’s state or superior court. They must pay the filing fee for that court, but the case is treated more-or-less as a new case. This is called “de novo” appeal (latin for “from the beginning”).

Locations

Every county has a Magistrate court. They are often in the same building or near the Superior Court. Sometimes, however, they are in a separate building or even a separate part of town. Magistrate courts (and all county courts) are located in the County Seat for your County.

State Courts can handle large money cases, but not felonies

Court Limits & Case Types

State courts have no restriction on the money damages they can award. This is compared to the $15,000 limit of magistrate courts. State courts are very similar to Superior Courts in Georgia. The main difference is that state courts cannot hear felonies—they are limited to misdemeanor criminal cases. Credit card lawsuits are not criminal, however, and therefore this limit does not apply. You can have your case heard by a jury in a state court.

Court rules & procedures

Complaints (or petitions), answers, and motions are filed with the clerk of the state court. This is often the same clerk as the county’s superior court clerk. State courts do follow the Georgia Civil Practice Act rules. This means the opposing parties in a state court case can go through the discovery process and ask each other questions and request documents prior to the actual trial. As with all courts in Georgia, the laws of evidence are applicable in state courts.

Locations

State courts do not exist in every county. Usually only larger, more populated counties have state courts. They are often in the same building or near the county’s Superior Court. As a county court, county state courts are located in the County Seat for your county.

Superior Courts can handle any legal issues

Court Limits & Case Types

Superior courts have no restrictions on the types of cases they can hear. Cases in superior court may be presented to a jury.

Court rules & procedures

Complaints (or petitions), answers, and motions are filed with the clerk of the superior court. The Georgia Civil Practice Act applies to Superior Courts. This means cases can go through the discovery process.

Locations

Every county has a Superior Court. They are located near the County Seat of your County.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in Georgia Courts

All three of these courts can hear complaints or counterclaims related to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The only limit is if the FDCPA claim is for more than $15,000, then a magistrate court cannot hear the case.

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