A magistrate is a judicial officer of the District Court who handles certain criminal and civil matters. In criminal cases, a magistrate issues warrants and sets bail. A magistrate may also accept guilty pleas and payments of fines and costs for traffic violations and minor misdemeanors and, in some counties, may conduct trials in certain worthless check cases. In civil cases, the magistrate presides over small claims court.
Magistrates are appointed to two-year terms by the senior resident Superior Court judge from among persons nominated by the clerk of superior court. The chief District Court judge sets their work schedules. A magistrate must have a four-year degree from an institution of higher learning or a two-year degree plus four years of relevant work experience. Magistrates must participate in continuing professional education for as long as they serve. Their salaries are set by statute and are based on years of service as a magistrate.