Last updated: September 30, 2013
Atlanta is big. The City in a Forest is home to about 5.5 million residents, and as the headquarters for many major international corporations, such as Coca-Cola, Home Depot, Delta, AT&T and UPS, it should be no surprise that Atlanta is our country’s 8th largest economy. Additionally, Atlanta is an international transportation hub, with literally the busiest airport on the planet.
Atlanta is vast and busy, and its court system is no different. The Atlanta court system consists of interconnected levels of courthouses that handle different aspects of the legal system or areas of the law. Knowing which court is appropriate for your particular issue is critical to your success, so here is a useful guide to some of the key courthouses in Atlanta.
Fulton County Justice Center Tower, 185 Central Ave., S.W., Atlanta, GA 30303
Lewis R. Slaton Courthouse, 136 Pryor St., S.W., Atlanta, GA 30303
Charles L. Carnes Justice Center Building, 160 Pryor St., S.W., Atlanta, GA 30303
The State Court of Fulton County is actually a single complex consisting of three buildings located on the same block. The Criminal Division handles misdemeanor criminal cases only, including DUI, but does not preside over felonies. The State Court also has jurisdiction over civil actions regardless of the amount in controversy. The Self-Help Center is a useful resource if you need help finding the correct forms or you would like to receive information about your case. If you are selected for jury duty, you are permitted to bring a laptop to use while waiting; they even have free Wi-Fi (try using “guest” as both login and password). Also, there is a small cafeteria on the first floor, but for more variety head to the second floor and follow the signs to the Fulton County Government Building.
The Magistrate Court is located in the same building as the State Court, but it deals only with specific issues. The Magistrate Court has a small claims division for civil actions involving $15,000 or less, and also handles traffic infractions, landlord-tenant issues and other ordinance code violations.
The Municipal Court has jurisdiction over city ordinances and misdemeanor traffic offenses.
Generally, this means traffic or parking tickets, DUI and various misdemeanors. Fines can conveniently be paid online through their website. If you pay in person, you can save time by paying parking tickets outside without waiting in line at the security checkpoint.
The Superior Court of Fulton County is the primary trial court in Atlanta. It has exclusive jurisdiction over felony criminal cases, domestic relations, equity and cases regarding title to land. This Court also hears appeals from lower courts.
Misdemeanor criminal cases, such as DUI, are generally not handled by the Superior Court. This Court offers mediation and hosts specialized Business Law and Family Law divisions. Their website offers some helpful forms and tips on Family Law matters.
The Probate Court oversees the division of a deceased individual’s property. The Probate Court also appoints guardians for minors or incapacitated adults, issues marriage and firearm licenses, and determines when involuntary treatment for the mentally ill is appropriate.
The Juvenile Court has jurisdiction over criminal offenses committed by minors, called “adjudications.”
The Court of Appeals reviews decisions made by lower courts. They have appellate jurisdiction over all cases except those involving constitutional questions, land title disputes, the construction of wills, murder, election contests, habeas corpus, extraordinary remedies, divorce and alimony; those matters proceed directly to the Georgia Supreme Court. No trials are held at the Court of Appeals.
As the highest court in the state, the Supreme Court of Georgia generally gets the final word in all state legal matters. The Supreme Court reviews civil and criminal cases from Georgia’s lower courts, as well as petitions from decisions by the Court of Appeals. All seven justices sit three or four times each month to hear oral arguments. No trials are held at the Georgia Supreme Court.
The U.S. District Court for the Eleventh Circuit handles federal law matters only. The Northern District is split into four divisions: Atlanta, Gainesville, Newnan and Rome.
This gorgeous historical building is home to the federal Appellate Court for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit, and has appellate jurisdiction over federal cases originating in the states of Alabama, Florida and Georgia.