Elmer Counts the Courts
The word “court” can have more than one meaning and you will hear it used in different ways the longer you hang around lawyer and courthouses. When someone says, “ I have to go to court tomorrow”, they are usually referring to room in a building called a “courthouse.” On the other hand, when some asks to “address the court”, they are usually referring to a person, usually dressed in a black robe. The still, another meaning comes to mind when a judge might say, “I'm conducting court tomorrow”, refers to a judicial process that lawyers and their clients have to go through in order to reach verdict or legally enforceable decision by a judge or jury. For the purpose of this blurb, I'll be talking about different types of “courts” and the judge(s) who sit on their respective benches.
In the 159 counties of Georgia, some gal or guy seeking some justice in his or her life, might go to the Internet and search for courts with judges in their part of the woods. Even in the smallest darkest, driest, poorest, little county of Taliaferro, located just off Interstate 20 and only a hundred or so years back down the road, even it would find no less than four: The Magistrate, the Probate, Juvenile and the Superior Courts. In some counties, superior court judges may sit as Juvenile court judges. For those of you counting, it's around 636 very well paid, local county judges at a minimum, because some larger counties have more than one judge seated in each court. Somewhere, maybe nearby or not so close there will also be U.S. District Court (Life-time appointments) handling federal matters occurring in that county. Now that doesn't count the judges sitting full or part-time in the few hundred municipal (city) courts, mind you.
In larger counties, you will have all of the above, but additionally, you might find State Courts, Business Courts, Family Courts, DUI Courts, Drug courts, Veterans Courts and a myriad of various-named courts with judges making daily decision affecting the lives of the citizens who live there.
Now for the big stuff. Georgia is divided into 49 Judicial Circuits. Each circuit has between 3 and 25 Superior Court Judges. While the exact number varies, with appointments and retirements, there are approximately 275 Superior Court judges in Georgia.
In Fulton County, the county seat of our state capital, you will also the several judges each seated in the Georgia Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court of Georgia and the 11th Circuit Federal Circuit Court of Appeals (Also life-time appointments). These courts exist, at least in some large part to correct the mistakes all these other judges make in the lower courts. These courts, set people free, grant new trials, reverse billion dollar judgements and disbar dishonest lawyers and judges.
I'm sure you already know we have to go to Washington, D.C. to find our U.S. Supreme Court, the highest court in the land. Last count there were nine, LIFE-TIME appointments to that court.
Safe to say then, that tax-payers in Georgia are supporting somewhere around 1,000 full-time judges state, county and municipal judges along with their staffs, furnishings and courthouses to give them somewhere nice to work, right? Oh, did I mention their retirement accounts?