GSB Vol. 17, NO. 2, Pg. 26. Judicial.

Authorby Donald E. Wilkes Jr.

Georgia Bar Journal

Volume 17.

GSB Vol. 17, NO. 2, Pg. 26.


GSB JournalVol. 17, NO. 2October 2011Judicialby Donald E. Wilkes Jr.There are 159 superior courts in Georgia-one in each county. Of all the existing courts of this state, superior courts are the oldest.

They were created 234 years ago by Georgia's first state constitution in 1777.(fn1) By contrast, the Supreme Court of Georgia was not established until 1845,(fn2) and the Court of Appeals of Georgia was not created until 1906.(fn3)

Presided over by superior court judges elected to serve four-year terms, superior courts are the most important trial courts in this state. Superior courts have general jurisdiction to try almost any civil or criminal case, and are the only courts with authority to exercise the powers of a court of equity or to try felonies. In addition to their expansive trial jurisdiction, superior courts have appellate jurisdiction to review certain decisions of probate courts, magistrate courts and municipal courts.

Brief History of the Western Judicial Circuit

The superior courts of this state are grouped into 49 geographically named circuits. One of these, the Western Judicial Circuit, currently consists of the superior courts of Clarke and Oconee counties. The superior court of Clarke County has been in the Western Judicial Circuit since the county was created in 1801,(fn4) and the superior court of Oconee County has been in the Circuit since the county's creation in 1875.(fn5)

Created by a 1797 statute,(fn6) the Western Judicial Circuit was, along with the Eastern and Middle Circuits, one of the first three judicial circuits established in this state. The Western Judicial Circuit originally consisted of the superior courts of eight counties: Elbert, Franklin, Greene, Hancock, Jackson, Lincoln, Oglethorpe and Wilkes. The Western Circuit received its name because at the time of its creation in the late 18th century most of what is now Georgia was still occupied by Native Americans, and these eight counties were then regarded as being in the western part of the state. Not one of those counties remains in the Western Circuit, and today the two counties forming the Circuit are in the northeastern part of Georgia. No longer is the Western Circuit located in the western part of the state.

At one time or another, the superior courts of 24 counties have been part of the Western Judicial Circuit. The most superior courts in the Western Judicial Circuit in any one period was between...

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