“This is a court committed, heart and soul, to the principle that all must have access to justice.”
-Nathan L. Hecht
Gwinnett County’s court and legal system is one of the state’s busiest, with six courts, 16 trial divisions, three limited jurisdictions courts and scores of departments and offices that serve residents’ legal needs and actions.
The Law Offices of R. Michael Coker, LLC
Gwinnett County’s justice system handles everything from jury trials to traffic tickets.
Imagine you’re a single mother from Lawrenceville who, as if that weren’t enough responsibility, had three children, ages four to ten, who all needed liver transplants. In the midst of that medical maelstrom, you were injured in a car accident. Who would help you walk through the uncertainty? If you decided to seek legal advice and you listen to the radio or read billboards, you’d see plenty of options. How do you choose?
If you prefer a law firm that does the majority of its business in Gwinnett County because it’s headed up by a lifelong Gwinnett resident, your options become limited. If you want a firm where the attorney with his name on the door will discuss your case with you, those options become even fewer.
“I meet with every client,” says Michael Coker of The Law Offices of R. Michael Coker. “We try to touch base with every one of our clients at least once every two to three weeks.” By “we” he means himself and his staff that includes, among others, Natasha, a paralegal with a biology background; Nick, with fifteen years’ experience in the insurance industry; and Kimberly, who’s bi-lingual.
Coker is well aware that personal injury lawyers get a bad reputation as ambulance chasers, but he and his staff are trying to change that.
“We try to take cases where we feel like we can make a difference for somebody who’s suffered a legitimate injury,” says Coker, who aims to “make a difference in their life; make a bad situation at least marginally better.”
Those cases have included parents who have buried their children, kids who’ve suffered third degree burns in restaurant accidents, and people who have lost lifelong careers due to disabling injuries.
“When you make those people feel like they’re at least financially capable of continuing and going on, it’s definitely rewarding.”
Coker doesn’t come from a long line of lawyers, but he has taken to heart the counsel of his father, a restaurant equipment salesman, who told his son, “If you take care of people the business will take care of itself.”
Injured in an accident? Call 24/7: 404.602.0005, or find out more at gwinnettaccidentlawyer.com.
Gwinnett County Court System
Gwinnett’s bustling court and legal system is housed on a 61-acre site in the Gwinnett County Justice & Administration Center, commonly referred to as GJAC, home to 27 courtrooms.
Gwinnett’s courts consist of six jurisdictions, along with treatment courts and a newly established business court partnership. The Gwinnett Court system’s six distinct jurisdictions include Superior Court, State Court, Magistrate Court, Probate Court, Juvenile Court, and the Recorder’s Court. A head judge presides over each court.
Superior Court is a trial court of general jurisdiction. Judges in Superior Court have the exclusive, constitutional authority over felony cases, prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office, involving title to land, equity, declaratory judgments, habeas corpus, mandamus, quo warranto, prohibition, adoptions and divorce. The Superior Court is authorized to correct errors made by lower courts.
The State Court is a trial court with limited jurisdiction. Judges at the State Court handle misdemeanor and traffic violations, prosecuted by the Solicitor’s Office and all civil actions except those for which the Superior Court has exclusive jurisdiction.
The Magistrate Court judges have jurisdiction of civil claims of $15,000 or less, county ordinance violations, applications for and issuance of arrest and search warrants, preliminary hearings, dispossessory writs and distress warrants. Judges in this court do not handle trials. The Superior and State Courts handle some appeals from this court.
Probate Court exercises jurisdiction over the business of life such as birth, marriage and death certificates, administration of estates and probate of wills, certificates of residence and issues involving temporary and permanent custody of minors. Permits for fireworks, firearms and guns are also handled within the Probate Court.
Juvenile Court judges are charged with hearing cases involving children and teenagers. These types of cases may include custody and felony charges. It could also involve cases dealing with delinquent or unruly juveniles.
The judges in the Recorder’s Court handle traffic tickets. Recorder’s Court also handles all Gwinnett County code ordinance violations, including citations by Gwinnett County Animal Control, the Planning and Zoning/Inspection Department, the Business License Department, and the Environmental Health Department.
Gwinnett Treatment Court Program
The Treatment Court is a program designed to reduce recidivism among defendants with addiction (drug and/or alcohol) or mental health issues, including veterans. The Treatment Court has several components, including Drug Court, DUI Court, Mental Health Court, Veteran’s Treatment Court, and Pre-Trial Diversion (PTD) Court. The Treatment court focuses on treatment, support, and sentencing alternatives. Treatment Court is a collaborative effort among the Superior Court, the District Attorney’s Office, defense attorneys, police agencies, probation programs, and drug treatment programs.
Metro Atlanta Business Court
This summer, Gwinnett became the first Atlanta-area county to join Fulton County’s business court. This court focuses on large and complex business cases, such as commercial litigation, contracts and torts, and cases involving a number of pieces of Georgia business legislation. Proponents believe the business court is more efficient at handling business-specific cases.
Gwinnett County Essential Services
Serving a growing population that is fast approaching one million people spread across 437 square miles, Gwinnett County government is an appropriately vast and complex operation.
County government provides residents with essential services and infrastructure, funded by tax revenue. This includes everything from health and human services to roads and transportation to emergency services and public safety, and scores of necessary functions in between.
The Gwinnett Justice & Administration Center is home to most county government offices and is located at 75 Langley Drive, Lawrenceville, GA 30046.
The elected branch of Gwinnett County government is the Board of Commissioners which includes four district commissioners and a chairman, all elected by residents. The Board sets direction and formulates policies for the county government, adopts the budget, authorizes expenditures, and approves or disapproves specific actions, such as rezoning of private property.
Working alongside the Board of Commissioners is the County Administrator’s office. The County Administrator, a non-elected position, serves as the Chief Executive Assistant to the Board and oversees the running of 12 county departments, including transportation, planning, the courts, water resources, emergency services and more.
The Gwinnett County government website is a great source of comprehensive information at GwinnettCounty.com.
Separate from Gwinnett County government, each of Gwinnett’s 16 municipalities has an elected mayor and provides a certain range of services for residents who live within city limits. Many of the larger cities also have a city manager to oversee city departments and services, functioning much like the county administrator does. If you’re a resident of one of Gwinnett’s cities, visit your city website to learn more about municipal services and departments.