Colquitt County Small Claims Court
Can I hire an attorney for my Colquitt County Small Claims Court case?
We cannot tell you whether or not you should hire an attorney. However, you may hire an attorney if you wish, but are not required to do so. You are able to file the case on your own completely without the assistance of an attorney. 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 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 mediation is successful, a plaintiff can still seek to recover court costs. If mediation is not successful, the case will proceed to the hearing. The court will hear evidence and provide an opportunity for both the plaintiff and the defendant to introduce their evidence (and allow each side to comment on the evidence introduced by the other party). When both parties are done, the judge will issue a decision (or judgment). The court could award damages to the plaintiff, the defendant, or both depending on the merits of the case.
If the plaintiff does not appear at the hearing, the court may do any of the following:
- Allow the defendant to present evidence and render a decision without hearing from plaintiff
- Postpone the case until a later date
- The court can dismiss the case
If the defendant fails to appear at the hearing, the court may grant a default judgment against the defendant. It is strongly recommended you attend the hearing whether you are the plaintiff or defendant (regardless of whether you believe the case to be strong or weak).
What is a default judgment and why is it bad?
If the defendant fails to answer the claim or appear at the hearing, the judge can issue a default judgment without hearing from defendant. 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 caim. If the defendant fails to respond, the defendant is in default.
How do I appeal a judgment?
If a party is not satisfied with the court’s decision, that party may file an appeal. The appeal is heard in the state or superior court of Colquitt 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.
Hearing Date for my Small Claims Case
In Colquitt County, the court selects the hearing date after the defendant responds to the claim. Hearing dates are usually 15 to 30 days after the date the answer was filed.
How do I prepare 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)
- Communicate with any witnesses you intend to call to prove your case. Confirm they are available on the day of the hearing.
- If a witness will not agree to appear, you need to subpoena them.
- If in preparing your documents you find that you need additional documents, you can subpoena documents from other parties as well.
- A subpoena is a command from the court for a person or documents to appear at a certain time and date to give testimony or produce evidence. A subpoena can be obtained from the clerk’s office of the Magistrate Court for Colquitt County.
What types of cases are filed in Colquitt 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
- Renter moves out and Owner fails to return deposit
- Failure of a merchant to deal with faulty merchandise
- A person who borrowed money refuses to return it
- Business loses or damages personal property and refuses to pay
- A mechanic charges for work not completed, unnecessary repairs, or poor workmanship.
The defendant is able to sue the plaintiff (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.
Colquitt County Court Location
The magistrate court for Colquitt County is located at:P.O. Box 70 Moultrie, GA 31776
It can be reached by telephone at: 229-616-7450. The fax number is 229-616-7494. The magistrate judge is Chief Magistrate Jeremy JJ McMillan.
What are the procedures for filing a case?
The case begins with the plaintiff filing a sworn statement with the magistrate court clerk in the proper county. The sworn statement simply spells out the claims made against the defenant and includes the facts on which the claim is based. At a minimum, the sworn statement should include the following facts:
- 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)
- Name and strees address of the defendant
- The amount of money the plaintiff is requesting
- Explain why the defendant is being sued (and why the defendant owes the money)
- Copies of all documents relevant to the claims (Keep the originals for your hearing)
Can I file my case in Colquitt County?
If the defendant is a person, the case must be filed in the County where they live. 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. In order to find the registered agent for service of process, contact the contact the Corporations Division of the Secretary of State either online or at 404-656-2817. If the business you are suing is unincorporated, you should file the case in the County where the business is physically located.
The plaintiff must also pay a filing fee which is submitted along with the initial paperwork (the sworn statement). A portion of the filing fee is for the cost for the court clerk to serve one defendant. The actual filing fee varies amongst counties but is usually between $45 and $55. If an additional defendant is named in the action, there is an extra charge for serving the additional party. This extra charge could be between $25 and $35.
The Colquitt County Clerk for the Magistrate Court can help you complete the necessary forms but CANNOT give legal advice. For example, a clerk could review your forms to make sure there is a signature where it is required but cannot tell you who you should name as a defendant. The clerk will also not be able to tell you whether he or she believes you will win your case.
Colquitt County Small Claim courts may also be referred to as Magistrate Courts. These courts are used to resolve disputes if the parties are unable to resolve the dispute.
Small Claims courts handle cases where the amount in dispute is less than $15,000.00. The process is designed to be quick and inexpensive.
Defendant’s Time to Answer
After the plaintiff files the claim, the magistrate court will serve the defendant with a copy of the claim (including the sworn statement) and a summons (with the date and time of the hearng) to appear in court. After that, the defendant has thirty days to respond or answer the claim.