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Only lawyers allowed to run for this local office?

One local elected office will be reserved exclusively for attorneys from here on out, if Fayette officials get their wish. The office of Fayette County Magistrate, of which there are four part-time judges here, would require any candidate to have either practiced law for seven years or been a magistrate for seven years.

The latter language was added to grandfather in the only one of Fayette’s four magistrates who is not a lawyer: Joe Tinsley.

The changes will require a local bill to be approved in the Georgia General Assembly to amend the current legislation governing the Fayette County Magistrate Court. At its Thursday night meeting, the Fayette County Commission unanimously approved a resolution seeking the changes.

County Attorney Scott Bennett explained that with the magistrates’ “small claims” courts being authorized to dispose of civil cases for larger amounts of money, in many cases plaintiffs and defendants are hiring attorneys for representation instead of making their own case themselves. That can cause difficulty for a magistrate who is not an attorney and familiar with the legal process, Bennett said.

The current limit on filing a civil cases in magistrate court is $15,000.

Also, requiring all Fayette magistrates to be attorneys will allow them to help out other Fayette courts if the need ever arises, Bennett said.

Also approved in the resolution is an effort to tie the magistrate’s salaries to those of Superior Court judges. That would mean that any raises for magistrates would be ultimately in the hands of the Georgia Legislature, which authorizes the pay for Superior Court judges, instead of the Fayette County Commission.

In addition to hearing civil cases, Fayette’s magistrates hold bond hearings to determine and set bond for defendants charged with crimes. Magistrates also hold hearings to determine if there is probable cause to bind defendants over for trial in Fayette County Superior Court.



The Fayette County Commission’s Resolution to require Magistrate Judges to be licensed practicing lawyers for 7 years is a good change in the law. But allowing a special favor for Judge Joe Tinsley who is not a licensed lawyer to continue should be deleted from the resolution. Here’s why.

On April 22, 2010 Judge Tinsley entered a judgment against me for $1000 plus court costs in Case No 2010MV-00585. This case involved a Rockdale County Septic Tank Co., operating in Fayette County illegally under the name of All About Septic & Plumbing. They quoted me $295 to clean out my septic tank, but tried to charge me $1,145. When I refused to pay the additional amount they sued me in Fayette Magistrate court.
Unfortunately for me, the Judge was the unknowledgeable Joe Tinsley, a man who had never been a licensed/lawyer. The case should have been very simple for Tinsley.

Septic tank companies are required by the State of Georgia to be certified for licenses and permits to operate in any Georgia County. I presented the Judge with a State Certified letter that this company had never been certified to operate. I also gave him a certified letter from the Fayette Dept of Health that this company never obtained a permit to service septic tanks in Fayette County.

The Septic Company presented no evidence to the contrary, but lied and said they did have a license. Joe Tinsley ignored my evidence, accepted the lie and ruled against me. I knew he was wrong because unlike the judge, I do have a law degree.

Now I’ve had to appeal the case to Superior court at substantial costs and time for me, with a waste of court time and tax payers money. Not to mention that Tinsley is allowing the Septic Company to continue to prey on other Fayette citizens.

My case has now languished in Fayette Superior court for 9 more months and will not be heard for many more months. When my case is finally heard I will have to subpoena officials from the State and Fayette Health Dept including other witnesses, go through a big jury trial, wasting more time and money for the Court, State, County & Jurors. All because of Judge Tinsley incompetence.

My case is now before Superior Court Judge Carla Wong McMillan as Civil Action No. 2010SV-0468. I will be asking the Fayette County Commission to amend their resolution to delete the grandfathering of Judge Tinsley to get him out of office. What a waste of everyone’s time and money to get justice. Fayette County has had enough trouble with judges acting improperly. The resolution will also give Tinsley a salary raise to that of Superior Court Judges and use him to sit on more complex superior court cases. Let’s not compound Fayette’s judicial problems any further.

Richard Shelley

PTC Observer's picture

Well that's quite an effort and expense to seek justice, but I don't see the economics in it. Is this simply a principled fight or something?

If so, my hat is off to you and wish you well on receiving justice.

It certainly is a principle, but I'm not going to allow an incompetent judge to make me pay money to a crooked company. Do you want judge Tinsley handling complex legal cases in Superior Court? Anyway, on Appeal I'm pursuing a counterclaim for monetary damages for fraud and misrepresentation. Thank you for your comment.

Are you sure you told us everything? It really is difficult to think that a long serving magistrate, lawyer or not, would not care about such a contractor working here without a license!

Also, was the contract for the lower amount in writing and did it stipulate what it covered and did not cover?

I tend to agree with you if all facts are out.

Also, I get somewhat suspicious when we make a law that anyone has to be a lawyer! Not even the Supreme Court requires that! It is just an understanding by enough lawyers in congress that it won't happen!

I have nothing against lawyers if they are practicing what they know and have experience with, but I do feel they are grossly overpaid when they do work to make up for when they don't. At least most doctors can pretend to be busy all of the time, although I have my doubts about some of the specialists!

Why is it so hard to understand? Judge Joe Tinsley just doesn’t know the law. We would all like to believe that judges care about those who come before them. After all, the judicial system is our last hope for justice. That’s why we citizens must purge incompetent judges.

Surely you’ve read about all the conflicts of interest with Fayette Judges English & Caldwell. And convicted Federal Judge Jack Camp with all his drug dealing & prostitutes. And the 420 cases he adjudicated while on drugs, that may now have to be retried.

No I haven’t told you everything. You would have to read the State court Case No. 2010SV-0468 on file in the Fayette Clerk’s office. It contains all the applicable GA statutes, case law & evidence, counterclaims, etc. But I told you all the Judge needed to know to dismiss the case.

It’s illegal to operate a business requiring a State License if you don’t have one. There is no contract, only an invoice. Anyway, a contract to do an illegal thing is void O.C.G.A. ᶳ 13-8-1. Now any Judge ought to be able to look that up. The invoice stated work that wasn’t done or true. Evaluation of my entire septic system and $850 for dumping non-existent toxic chemicals.

You’ll get no argument from me justifying lawyers. We have just got to clean out all the bad lawyers & bad Judges.

Concerned Citizen's picture

Sounds like sour grapes to me. You expect us to believe that story? Sounds like you got an estimate, agreed to let them do extra work then balked at the price. Happens every day in magistrate court, you failed to read the contract, rookie mistake. Also, you wasted your time with the state court filing, she'll side with the contract as well. I can tell your case is weak because your trying to argue that they should not be allowed to do business in the first place, therefore anything they do is illegal. Why did you hire these people? Again, sour grapes. Do your research next time. Heck, following your logic, you should have to be a lawyer to hire a septic company, it seems to be such a difficult task. Also, why is it that you are listed as the defendant on the above case number. A simple search of the clerks office records shows that you are the defendant and the case has been ordered to mediation after your motion for summary judgement was denied, by a LAWYER. I guess it's not so cut and dry as you make it seem, if so, Judge Sams, a lawyer, would have clearly seen your side when this case was before him in May of 2010.

If you people actually knew what you were talking about, you'd be silent. Ask yourself this, how many times have you sat in Fayette County Magistrate Court? Me? Well over one hundred. Here's the truth of the matter, Judge Tinsley may not be a lawyer but he is a great Magistrate Judge. He actually listens to what people have to say, he's always FAIR and thoughtful. Don't put so much stock in being a lawyer for this job, if that's what the people want, then so be it, let them vote that way. Judge Tinsley has a lot of experience and always looks out for Justice, not his lawyer buddies. Tyrone, hope it all works out for you, I'm really not against you in your quest but after a little digging, it seems you should at least admit that this is not such a cut and dry case. You are on this rant against the Judge, take some responsibility man, don't cry because you didn't get your way.

With so called "Concerned Citizens" like you, no wonder the judiciary in Fayette has had so much trouble. Just the same Judge Tinsley has got to go. No more good olde boy favoritism.

Concerned Citizen's picture

After all the work I did for my comment, you came back with that? I'll be following your case and report for all to know about.

Complaints had been made about Magistrate Judges who don’t know the law or legal procedure. These complaints were made by Lawyers & Clients. Since Judge Joe Tinsley was the only Magistrate without a law degree and license, the complaints were in reference to Judge Joe Tinsley.

The Fayette Commissioners decided to solve the problem by asking the Georgia Legislature to approve Fayette’s Resolution to not allow any non-lawyers to be Magistrate Judges. This would justifiably remove Judge Joe Tinsley.

But Judge Joe Tinsley didn’t like such a law. So he got supporters on the commission to exempt him and him only for all time to come. To get the Resolution passed a deal was struck for Judge Joe Tinsley. However this favoritism did not solve the problem. The problem, Judge Joe Tinsley, remains but everyone else must have a law degree and license.

The proper thing to do is require Judge Joe Tinsley to resign and go get his law degree like every other judge. Judge Joe Tinsley can then come back and run for Magistrate Judge. Then there will be no discrimination or equal protection under the law that Judge Joe Tinsley doesn’t know about. This is the real issue written about in the Citizens Newspaper.

If Judge Joe Tinsley was the great person some say, he would do the honorable thing and resign himself; and start studying law. If the Resolution as stated passes the Legislative, it will probably then ruled unconstitutional under the Equal protection Clause in the 14th Amendment.

Abraham Lincoln had not law degree!
Most judges did not until recent years. Lawyers have seen to it that many, many laws have been passed to the point where they think only lawyers can serve--as they intended.

Now, also tell me if lawyers make good judges of the law? One defends a crook in court, another wants him hung! They work for money, not justice.

We seem to have had a passel of poor judges with terrible principles serving around here lately also.
They simply usually know how to stay out of trouble with appeals and don't know any more about the "spirit" of the law than I do. They also are way too self important.

Judge McMillian is a State Court Judge, not Superior Court.

Thanks for the correction.

about licenses & permits evidence? Maybe because he didn't have a law license himself.

ptctaxpayer's picture

Hey, Dick, you lost your case because you didn't hire someone who knows the ropes around the legal system--- like your buddy Barry Amos !

I agree that Judge Tinsley should not be a Judge. He certainly should not be allowed to handle Superior Court cases. This is unfair to Plaintiffs, Defendants and their Attorneys to have to argue with a Judge who is unqualified!

OK, so who on the Commission added the language that would effectively "Grandfather" Tinsley?

Yeah, I really like to find out.

I don’t know who added that grandfathering language. That’s what I want to find out. I wish someone would let me know. This is good old boy favoritism.

cogitoergofay's picture

Why Judge Joe should be allowed an exemption.....

Let me admit----I support Joe Tinsley. I would not bother with this blog if I did not. He has been basically good, exercised common sense and served Fayette well. After all, the voters elected him repeatedly.

And that is the point--- Joe was elected when you did NOT have to be a lawyer to be a magistrate. It goes back to the days when there were not many lawyers. Getting a legal education is very expensive, very time consuming and difficult. Now we have too many lawyers so it easy to find lawyers to do the work. The suggestion that Joe should go to law school is unfair. When he started it was not required.

Adding a new requirement is reasonable. Allowing him to serve out his career under previous rules is also fair. After all, the Magistrate Court does not require strict compliance by litigants with the rules of evidence or procedure, just basic fairness. And on that note, Joe Tinsley has served us well.

The Commission's proposal is fair.

Just wanted to let everyone know that in the above mentioned case with
All About Septic vs Richard Shelley
That not only did Judge Tinsley rule in favor of All about septic, but today a Jury of Mr. Shelley's peers also upheld Judge Tinsley's ruling and ordered Mr. Shelley to pay the Plaintiff the full amount that was agreed on.
And Denying Mr. Shelley's counter claim.

Just wanted to let everyone know that in the case mentioned Civil Action No. 2010SV-0468 with
All About Septic vs Richard Shelley
That not only did Judge Tinsley rule in favor of All about septic, but today a Jury of Mr. Shelley's peers also upheld Judge Tinsley's ruling and ordered Mr. Shelley to pay the Plaintiff the full amount that was agreed on.
And Denying Mr. Shelley's counter claim.

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