The Chief Magistrate Judge is elected every four years in a partisan election. Magistrate court jurisdiction includes civil claims of $15,000 or less, dispossessory writs, county ordinance violations, misdemeanor deposit account fraud (bad checks), preliminary hearings, issuance of summons, arrest warrants, and search warrants.
The chief magistrate of each county assigns cases, schedules court sessions, and appoints other magistrates (with the consent of the superior court judges of the judicial circuit).
To qualify as a magistrate, an individual must have resided in the county for at least one year preceding his or her term of office, be 25 years of age, and have a high school diploma. Other qualifications may be imposed by local legislation. There are 159 chief magistrates and 346 magistrates in Georgia.
Magistrates may grant bail in cases in which the setting of bail is not exclusively reserved to a judge of another court. If a defendant submits a written request for a jury trial, then cases may be removed to superior or state court.
The Chief Magistrate was formerly known as justice of the peace in Georgia.