Magistrates for each county are appointed for two-year terms by the Senior Resident Superior Court Judge upon nomination of the Clerk of Superior Court. Magistrates are officers of the district court, and they are subject to the supervision of the Chief District Court Judge in judicial matters.

In criminal matters, magistrates issue arrest and search warrants and set bail. They have authority to:
  • accept guilty pleas to minor misdemeanors and pleas of responsibility to infractions;
  • accept waivers of trial and guilty pleas to certain traffic littering, wildlife, boating, marine fisheries, state park recreation and alcoholic beverage violations; and
  • accept waivers of trial and guilty pleas in worthless check cases in which the check is for $2000 or less.
In civil matters, the magistrates may be assigned by the Chief District Court Judge to hear small claims cases, including summary ejectment (landlord's action to evict a tenant) cases. The magistrate is also authorized to perform marriage ceremonies, assign a year's allowance to a surviving spouse, administer oaths, verify pleadings and take acknowledgments (notarization) of instruments.

The Orange County Magistrate's office is located at Court Street, Hillsborough in the brick building next to the jail. Members of the public may meet with a magistrate at the Hillsborough location weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The Hillsborough telephone number is (919) 644-4690; after business hours, please call (919) 644-3050. The Chapel Hill number is (919) 929-5707.

Current Orange County magistrates: Tony Oakley, Jennifer Hodgson, Rex Frederick, Gerald Koelling, Dennis Jordan, Renee Rendahl and Jamie Paulen.