A Day in the Life of a Magistrate Judge: Judge Joyette Holmes

The magistrate courts of Georgia are commonly referred to as the "court of first resort" or "the people's court." They issue warrants, hear minor criminal offenses, and handle cases of civil claims involving amounts of $15,000 dollars or less. In Georgia, magistrate court judges can be designated to conduct cases as a superior court judge to assist the higher court in dispensing justice in an efficient  manner. On the day of my visit, Judge Holmes was hearing cases for the Marietta-Cobb-Smyrna (MCS) Narcotics Task Force, a collaboration between three of Cobb's most active law enforcement agencies to help combat the opioid and methamphetamine epidemics.

Judge Holmes/Cobb County Magistrate Court

Above, Left: Cobb County Chief Magistrate Court Judge Holmes in her chambers before the first calendar call. Right: The public entrance for the Cobb County Magistrate Court. Judge Holmes' day began at a 7 a.m. meeting with the Warrant Division.

Judge Holmes 9 am calendar call begins

Above: Judge Holmes's 9 a.m. MCS calendar call begins as ADA Greg Epstein begins to call cases. MCS Narcotics calendars occur on Tuesdays, sandwiched between the small claims calendars of Monday and Wednesday. The calendar begins with arraignments followed by probation revocations. For the revocation defendants that show up, which is most of those called, it is immediately off to drug testing performed downstairs. For those that didn't show up a warrant is issued.  After hearing roughly 60 cases, court recesses at 12:40 p.m.

Touring the Facilities Magistrate Court/Clerk

Above, Left: Two of the five courtrooms. Courtrooms are assigned by the type of calendar rather than by Judge. Right: Magistrate Court Clerk entrance where the public is served by one of the 12 windows. 

Judge McLauglin and Judge Holmes

Above, Left: Judge Michael McLaughlin with Judge Holmes. Judge McLaughlin has been serving as a part-time magistrate since 1985. Right: Electronic Warrant Interchange (EWI) system where Judge McLaughlin had a 1 p.m. calendar.  The EWI allows law enforcement departments to request and obtain warrants without having to travel to Magistrate Court, saving time and money. 

 Magistrate Court Clerk Tahnicia Phillips with Judge Holmes

Above, Left: Clerk of Court Tahnicia Phillips with Judge Holmes. Right: Although fading, the age of paper remains. Cobb Magistrate's civil e-filing has made a sizable dent to the amount of paper the clerk's office has to house. 

Back on the Bench

Judge Holmes PM calendar

 Above: Judge Holmes is back on the bench at 2 p.m. Several defendants are brought in from the county jail for sentencing on various drug offenses. Other defendants from the morning's revocation calendar are called back to the stand to explain the results of their drug test. Her calendar ends at 3:30 p.m., uncharacteristically early for a Tuesday MCS calendar, allowing Judge Holmes time to tackle the stack of paperwork on her desk. 

by Bruce Shaw

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