Probate Court Judge/Magistrate Court Chief

Judge Heather Stewart graduated with an associate degree from South Georgia Technical College and has worked for the county for twenty-seven years. The first seventeen were spent as the clerk and the last ten have been working as the judge.

Chief Clerk Julie Taylor also graduated from South Georgia Technical College. She has an associates degree in accounting and worked as the office manager for three years at Oakcrest Lumber. She loves helping others and does so by being an auxiliary at the nursing home. She has been the county’s chief clerk for ten years.

To contact Judge Heather Stewart or Chief Clerk Julie Taylor, call (229) 649-5542

Probate Court

Duties:

  • Probate Estates
  • Guardianship and Conservatorship of Adults and Minors
  • Safe Keep Wills
  • Traffic Court
  • Weapons Carry and Fire Work Permits
  • Administer Official Oaths
  • Marriage Licenses
  • Birth and Death Records

Estates and Guardianship

Traffic Citations 

How to Dispose of a Traffic Citation

  • By Credit Card: www.ezcourtpay.com or call 1-800-262-0128
  • NO PERSONAL CHECKS OR COMPANY CHECKS ACCEPTED UNLESS AUTHORIZED BY THE JUDGE. Money order or cashier’s check should be made payable and mailed to the Marion County Probate Court, PO Box 196, Buena Vista, GA 31803. If you pay in person we take cash, money order, cashier’s check and Visa / MasterCard (a convenience fee will be added.). THEY MUST BE RECEIVED BY COURTDATE SHOWN ON YOUR CITATION.
  • PLEASE include a copy of the citation or give correct name, address, license number, date of birth, date of citation issued and citation number if known.
  • Your driver’s license will be SUSPENDED by the court if you fail to pay this citation by the court date.
  • If you have received a traffic ticket in Marion County from either the Georgia State Patrol or the Sheriff’s Office, you may contest the ticket or, if a court appearance is not mandatory, you may plead guilty to the offense and pay the fine prior to the court date listed on your ticket.

To find out the amount of the fine for your violation, call the Marion County Probate Court at 229-649-5542 between 8-12 a/m. and 1-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.

Firearms Licenses

  • The Probate Court of Marion County issues licenses to all qualified persons who are residents of Marion County.

Requirements

  • 21 years of age or 18 if enlisted in military
  • Resident of Marion County
  • Picture identification with physical address listed is required
  • Fill out application in Probate Court Office
  • Will have to go to Sheriff’s office at 338 Geneva Rd, Buena Vista, GA 31803 to be fingerprinted

Renewal Requirements

  • Fill out application in Probate Court Office
  • Can renew license 90 days prior or 30 days after expiration

Fees

  • New Applicant: $74.75
  • Renewal: $30.00

Marriage Licenses

  • Cost is $66 unless there is a signed and notarized form stating premarital counseling has been performed and then the cost is $26. These fees are payable by cash, money order or Visa / MasterCard (plus convenience fee).

To obtain a license to marry:

  • Applicants must both appear in person
  • Applicants must be 18 years of age or older. If younger, parents or legal guardians have to be present and present identification and sign an affidavit.
  • Picture identification card is required for both applicants
  • Divorce decree or death certificate is required from applicants that have had prior marriages
  • Birth certificates are optional
  • Marriage ceremonies are by appointment only

Filing a license after a marriage ceremony:

  • After a couple is married by a clergy or person who is authorized to perform marriage ceremonies, the license is to be returned to the Probate Court within 30 days
  • If a couple need certified copies of their marriage license, they may be purchased for $10 each using cash, money order or Visa / MasterCard (plus convenience fee)
  • The marriage license is public record and can be purchased by anyone. No identification is required to purchase certified copy of a marriage license

To receive a certified copy in the mail:

  • Send us a written request with the full names of the couple and date of marriage
  • Please tell us how many copies you are requesting
  • Please enclose a money order for the total amount of copies requested (fees listed above)

Reduced fee requirements:

  • To qualify for the reduced fee, the couple must provide the Court a signed and dated certificate of completion of a qualifying premarital education program. The Court has an acceptable Certificate which you take to the Premarital education provider

To qualify, the premarital education must have been performed by:

    • A professional counselor, social worker, or marriage and family therapist;
    • A psychiatrist;
    • A psychologist’ or
    • An active member of the clergy when in the course of his or her services as clergy, or the designee of such active member of the clergy, provided the designee is skilled and trained in premarital education.

Download Form Here

Birth and Death Records

  • We are able to certify birth and death certificates from anywhere in the state of Georgia

Birth Certificates:

  • Birth certificates are not public record. There are a limited number of people who may apply to receive a certified copy of a birth certificate. Download form to request.
  • Acceptable Persons
    • Person listed on birth certificate
    • Either natural parent of person on birth certificate (must be listed on birth certificate)
    • Adoptive parents of person on birth certificate (adoptive parents names must be listed on birth certificate)
    • Grandparents of person on birth certificate
    • Siblings of person on birth certificate
    • Spouse of person on birth certificate
    • You MUST have a VALID PICTURE IDENTIFCATION CARD to obtain a certified copy of a birth certificate

Death Certificates:

  • Death certificates are available to the public. No identification is required for purchase. Download form to request.
  • Acceptable Persons
    • Legal spouse
    • Adult child
    • Adult sibling
    • Parent
    • Grandparent
    • Grandchild
    • Those with a “tangible interest,” such as a beneficiary or insurance company
    • Members of the public (certificate will not indicate cause of death)

Fees for Birth and Death Certificates:

  • $25 for the first copy of a certificate
  • $5 for each additional copy of the same certificate
  • Fees are payable by cash or money order or Visa / Master Card

Magistrate Court

Duties:

  • Arrest and Search Warrants
  • Warrant Application
  • Civil cases up to $15,000.00
  • County Ordinances
  • Bad Check (Deposit Account Fraud)

E-File for Magistrate Court – www.efilegeorgia.com for Statement of Claim, Garnishment and Dispossessory

To make payment online to Magistrate Court – www.magistratepay.com or call 1-833-624-4787

Arrest and Search Warrants

The criminal jurisdiction of Magistrate Court consists of considering and issuing arrest and search warrants, hearing County Ordinance violations and bad check citations, conducting preliminary hearings, First Appearance hearings and setting of bonds in most cases.

Magistrate Judges are available 24 hours a day, 365 days each year to consider arrest and search warrant requests from law enforcement officials and will consider warrant requests from private individuals during normal hours of operation.

The issuance of arrest and search warrants are among the most important duties of the Magistrate Court. The law requires that a “neutral and detached Magistrate” consider sworn testimony before any arrest or search warrant may be issued. Both the United States Constitution and the Georgia Constitution require that a person may only be arrested or his or her home or business searched by law enforcement officials upon a showing of probably cause. Magistrate Judges are available to law enforcement officials 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to consider the application for arrest and search warrants.

There are times when a private individual will seek the arrest of another private individual for an alleged crime. Georgia law requires a hearing before an arrest warrant can be issued at the request of a private individual except in very limited circumstances. These hearings are referred to as “Pre-warrant Hearings” and Magistrate Judges conduct these hearings on a weekly basis.

If a private citizen seeks the arrest of another private citizen a written request for a warrant must be made to the Magistrate Court during normal work hours. The warrant request must be sworn allegation of the person seeking the warrant.

The person requesting the arrest warrant must first make a police report and will need the name, address, Social Security Number, date of birth and other identifying information for the alleged offender. Although some of this information may be difficult to obtain, the information is required because, assuming a warrant is issued, law enforcement will need the information to enter the warrant into the Georgia Crime Information Center’s computer. If the warrant fails to have this information, law enforcement officials will have no way to locate and identify the offender.

If a warrant request is made by a private citizen in absence of exigent circumstances, the person whose arrest is sought is entitled to receive notice of any scheduled hearing. A hearing will be conducted before a Magistrate Judge and a decision will be made a s to whether the arrest warrant should be issued, not issued or some other disposition of the case should be made. If an arrest warrant is issued, the warrant will be forwarded to the Sheriff for execution and the case will ultimately be sent to the District Attorney for prosecution.

When an arrest warrant is issued – without regard as to whether it was requested by a private citizen or a law enforcement official – a Magistrate Judge will consider the issue of bond (bail). In most cases a Magistrate Judge will be responsible for the issue of bond. The Magistrate Judge will consider the facts of the case, the history of the offender, and all other circumstances made known to the Magistrate in deciding the issue of bond. Bond is not intended as punishment, rather, is intended to ensure that the Defendant will appear at trial to answer for the charges.

Except in misdemeanor cases, the Magistrate Judge may refuse bond but only if he or she finds that certain circumstances exist which suggest that no amount of bond will ensure that the Defendant will appear for trial or poses such risk to the community that the Defendant should not be released on bond.

Civil Cases

For forms go to www.georgiamagistratecouncil.com

The civil jurisdiction of Magistrate Court includes dispossessory actions (evictions), garnishments, and general civil actions where the amount of the controversy does not exceed $15,000.

A civil case is one where a party seeks money damages from another party for alleged wrongs. The types of civil cases which the Court generally hears are suits for money owed from one party to another, claims for damage to person or property, landlord/tenant disputes, writs of possession matter and breach of contract cases

The only types of civil cases which cannot be considered by Magistrate Court are divorces, cases where equitable relief is sought and issues involving the title to land. All other civil matters may be heard by Magistrate Court, provided the amount in controversy does not exceed $15,000.

The procedure of the Magistrate Court is intended to promote the efficient resolution of disputes. Parties may represent themselves on matters before the magistrate Court or may elect to have legal counsel represent them.

Magistrate Court is the only Georgia court in which a corporation may represent itself in a civil matter However, many parties find that hiring an attorney to represent them in Court allows their case to be presented effectively and efficiently, ensuring that all procedural and evidentiary rules are followed.

A non-attorney may not represent a party other than himself in and Georgia court. They Court will always try to accept into evidence all admissible and relevant evidence. However, if a party does not have admissible evidence or does not know how to have their evidence admitted, the Court cannot teach the parties those rules during trial.

A civil case is initiated by the Plaintiff filing a Complaint against the Defendant. The Complaint must set forth the basis of the claim that they Plaintiff has against the Defendant, provide the address of the Defendant and state a claim for damages. The Clerk of Magistrate Court has forms available for the Plaintiff to file the Complaint. The Plaintiff must also pay the filing and service fee to initiate the case.

  • Filing fee (1 Defendant to be served) $101.00
  • Service fee for each additional Defendant $50.00 each

There are no limits to the number of Plaintiffs or Defendants which may be parties to the case.

After the Complaint is filed and the Filing Fees are paid, the Sheriff’s Office will serve the Defendant with a copy of the lawsuit as required by law. The Defendant must then file an Answer to the Complaint within the time limits required by law. There are very specific time limitations on the filing of an Answer and the Defendant is charged with the responsibility if knowing and meeting those time demands.

If the Defendant fails to file a timely Answer, the Plaintiff will receive a default Judgement upon request without further notice to the Defendant for the amount set forth in the Complaint. If no specific dollar figure is requested in the Complaint, the Court will conduct a hearing on the issue of damages without further notice to the Defendant.

The Clerk of Magistrate Court has forms available for the Defendant to use in filing an Answer. However, no specific form is required. The Defendant may also file a Counterclaim against the Plaintiff, alleging that the Plaintiff owes damages to the Defendant. A Counterclaim is usually included within the Answer. There is no filing fee for the Answer.

The Answer may allege that the Defendant does not owe anything the Plaintiff or that the Defendant admits owing some amount but disagrees with the amount requested by the Plaintiff. Assuming that there is a timely Answer filed with the Clerk of Magistrate Court, the case will then be set for trial.

Civil cases re heard several times every month. Usually, the case will be heard by either the Chief Magistrate Judge or the Associate Magistrate Judge. The Clerk of Magistrate Court will send a trial notice to the parties at the address provided by the respective parties. It is important to keep the Clerk of Magistrate Court advised of a change of address that may occur. The failure of a party to appear for trial will likely result in an adverse ruling to the party that failed to appear, including the dismissal of the case of a default judgement.

Prior to trial, the Georgia Rules of Magistrate Court require the parties to meet in person and discuss the possibility of settling the matter without a trial. This meeting will generally be conducted on the date of trial, prior to the case being herd. The parties are free to meet or speak by telephone prior to trial in an attempt to resolve the case and, in fact, the Court encourages such meetings.

Once the trial begins, the parties lost control over their case and the resolutions of an important matter is left to a judge who does not know the parties, their circumstances or other important facts. The Court only knows what is presented in Court and must decide the case based upon his or her factual findings and the law that applies to such facts.

Frequently, neither party receives a judgement that is “perfect” from their respective points of view. If the parties settle their case on terms that they agree upon, both parties generally leave the Courthouse satisfied. If the parties are able to settle their case, the Court will be willing to make that settlement a written, binding Order of the Court upon request. If the case proceeds to trial, both parties will receive the judgement of the Court by which they will be required to abide.

At trial, the Plaintiff will present evidence first and the Defendant will have the right to cross examine (ask questions of) the witnesses who testify. After the Plaintiff has concluded their presentation of evidence, the Defendant will have the right to present evidence and the Plaintiff will have the right of cross examinations.

The Court may ask questions from the bench in an attempt to address the heart of the matter and keep the parties on point. At the conclusion of all the evidence, the Court will either announce a judgement or take the case under advisement. In either circumstance a written order will be sent to both parties by mail.

There are no jury trials in Magistrate Court. All civil cases are heard by a judge, this type of trial is commonly referred to as a bench trial. After a final judgement is rendered either party may appeal their case to the Superior Court of Marion County within time limits established by law and, within the context of that appeal, request a jury trial. An appeal requires the payment of costs by the party seeking the appeal and, upon payment of this costs, the case will be transferred to Superior Court.

The Court encourages all parties who are considering legal action to seek the advice of an attorney before proceeding.