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County to combine courts

Pike County commissioners voted to combine the magistrate and probate courts by a 3-2 vote at the Feb. 22 meeting after they were presented with information detailing 23 counties in Georgia with combined courts. The combination is projected to save Pike around $70,000 a year and must be approved by a resolution from the Georgia legislature. ’The two courts handle different subject matter and are two different elected positions. The voice of the people is important in filling these positions,’ said magistrate judge Marcia Callaway-Ingram. ‘Most of the counties with combined courts were much smaller than Pike, with populations from 1,800 to 11,000. Three counties that have populations over 11,500 also have state courts which absorb much of the caseload of both probate and magistrate courts, so the case load isn’t comparable.’ Commissioner Tammy Jarrett said based on the information packet provided for the board, other counties with combined courts did not have all of the same duties ‘“ specifically that most counties have a separate election board. ’Our probate court oversees traffic court, vital records and elections,’ she said. ‘Most of the combined offices handle only two of these duties in addition to magistrate court duties. None of the 23 counties with combined courts had all of these functions.’ Pike’s magistrate court handles civil claims of $15,000 or less, minor criminal cases, distress warrants and dispossessory writs, county code violations, deposit account fraud, preliminary hearings and summons and grants or denies arrest and search warrants as requested by the sheriff’s office. Pike County’s probate court administers oaths of office, issues marriage licenses and has exclusive jurisdiction to probate wills, administrate estates, appoint guardians and handle involuntary hospitalization of incapacitated adults.

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