Brantley County Small Claims Court
How do I appeal a judgment?
If you are not happy with the court’s decision (and generally at least one party, sometimes both, are not satisfied with the judgment), the party may file an appeal (or ask a higher court to review the judgment). The appeal is heard in the state or superior court of Brantley County. On the appeal, either party may request a jury trial (something you cannot have at the magistrate court level). The appeal must be filed within thirty days of the court’s decision.
Preparing for the Hearing
The following steps are recommended to prepare for the hearing:
- Collect all the documents you need for your case. Also prepare extra copies for the judge and other party (or parties)
- Contact any witnesses you need to call to prove your case and confirm that they will appear on the hearing date
- If a witness will not agree to appear, you need to subpoena them. Similarly, if you need additional documents that are not in your possession, you can issue a subpoena for the documents as well.
- A subpoena is a documnt which can be completed by you and issued by the court which commands a person to appear in court and may require them to bring certain documents to court as well.
You can obtain a subpoena from the Brantley County Clerk for the Magistrate Court.
Brantley County Court Location
The magistrate court for Brantley County is located at:
The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate Jeff A. Thomas. The telephone number for the court is: 912-462-6780. The fax number is 912-462-6897.
Which Types of Cases are Usually filed in Brantley County Small Claims Court?
Here are examples of cases that are often found in small claims court:
- A tenant refuses to pay for damages which are more than the security deposit
- A landlord wants to evict a tenant for failure to pay rent
- Landlord fails to return the security deposit to the tenant
- A merchant refuses to repair, replace, or refund faulty merchandise
- Borrower refuses to pay back money which was loaned
- Dry cleaning business damages or loses items and refuses to pay for damage or loss
Which County do I file my case in?
The case must be filed in the County where the defendant (or the person you are suing) lives. If the defendant lives in Brantley County, you may file the case in this County. If the person you are suing is a corporation, the case must be filed in the County where the registered agent for service of process is located. To find the registered agent, contact the Corporations Division of the Secretary of State either online or at 404-656-2817. If the defendant is an unincorporated business (fancy for is not a corporation), file the case in the county where the business is physically located (ie. if the business is located in Brantley County, file it here).
The plaintiff must also pay a filing fee. The filing fee includes the cost to serve one defenant. Filing fees vary county to county but are generally between $45 and $55. There is an extra charge for service for any additional defendants (if you are suing more than one person). This extra charge could be between $25 and $35.
The Brantley County Clerk for the Magistrate Court can help you complete the necessary forms but CANNOT give legal advice. For example, the court clerk would be able to review your completed forms to make sure your signature is in the appropriate blanks but is not able to tell you which defendant you should sue. The clerk will also not be able to tell you whether he or she believes you will win your case.
How does the defendant learn of the case?
After the case is filed the court clerk serves the defendant with a copy of the claim along with a summons. From that point, the defendant has thirty days to respond or answer.
When will my hearing date be?
The court will select a hearing date after the defendant files an answer to the claim. The date for the hearing is usually fifteen to thirty days after the defendant files an answer.
Can the Defendant sue the Plaintiff?
Can the Defendant sue the Plaintiff?
Yes. This is called a counterclaim. The defendant can file a counterclaim against the plantiff’s original claim if it is related to it, and the total money claimed by the defendant is less than $15,000. A defendant’s counterclaim is generally heard at the same time and date as the plaintiff’s original claim.
What are the hearing procedures?
In some counties, the court requires both parties to attempt to resolve the case through mediation before the court will hear the case (if the mediation is unsuccessful). Mediation is a way for both parties to meet with an independent third party who can evaluate the case and try to reach a settlement that is agreeable to both parties. Even if the parties agree to settle the case out of court, the plaintiff may still ask the defendant to pay court costs (costs for filing the case, serving defendants, any subpoenas issues, etc.). If mediation is not successful, the case will proceed to the hearing. The court will also allow the plaintiff and defendant to question or dispute each other’s evidence during the hearing. When both (or all parties) are done presenting evidence, the judge will issue a decision. The judge may award damages to the plaintiff, defendant, or both depending on the facts of the case.
The court has several options if the plaintiff does not appear at the hearing:
- allow defendant the opportunity to put on evidence and issue a decision without the plaintiff present.
- The court can continue the case to a later date
- Dismiss the case
If the defendant does not show at the hearing, the court has the power to grant a default judgment against the defendant. It is called a default judgment because the plaintiff wins the case by “default.” The lesson to be learned is make sure you attent the hearing regardless of whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant.
The purpose of magistrate court is to resolve claims in an informal manner for any amount less than $15,000. The process is designed to be quick and inexpensive.
Can I hire an attorney for my Brantley County Small Claims Court case?
You may hire an attorney but you are not required to. You are able to file the case on your own, without the assistance of an attorney (again, the process was designed to be inexpensive). Small Claims court judges are heard and decided without a jury. Sometimes, mediation is recommended or required before the judge will hear the case.
What are the procedures for filing a case?
The plaintiff (or person filing the action) needs to file a sworn statement with the magistrate court clerk in the proper county. A sworn statement states the claims made against the defendant and includes the facts giving rise to the claim. The sworn statement should usually include the following:
- The name, address, and telephone number of the plaintiff (and attorney if there is one)(Make sure this is correct as this is how the court will contact you if there are any issues)
- Include the name and street address of the defendant (this is what the court will use to serve the defendant)
- The amount of money the plaintiff is requesting
- Detail why the defendant is being sued (and why this defendant owes the money)
- Copies of all documents relevant to the claims (Keep the originals for your hearing)
What’s a default judgment?
When a defendant fails to appear at the hearing or respond to the claim, the court can grant a default judgment. If a default judgment is entered, the plaintiff is awarded the amount that was requested in the claim along with court costs. An additional hearing by the court will be necessary if the plaintiff asked for something that does not have a specific dollar amount. The defendant has only thirty days to respond to the claim. If the defendant fails to respond, the defendant is in default.