This type of court, according to Chief Magistrate Judge John Leggett, is a setting where parties involved in cases are not required to have lawyers.
Leggett defined magistrate court as “the peoples court,” but added that the law still must be upheld. The video is beneficial in achieving this goal because it instructs the layman on how to present a case, he said.
“We are a lot of times the first and only court that people see,” explained Leggett. “We want to make it as friendly as possible, but we can’t just ignore the law.”
The 15-minute video includes vignettes on the various workings of magistrate court, often employing hypothetical scenarios, he said, so people are familiar with how the proceedings should work when they enter the courtroom.
Most people not employed in the legal system will not know the exact steps to follow, so procedure is not as paramount in magistrate court it is in some other court settings, Leggett explained.
“You follow the rule of the law but you try to relax the procedures,” he said. “We try to make it as accessible as possible, while still making sure that we follow the law.”
A television that court employees originally thought was broken due to water damage has been repurposed to display the video.
Water seeps through the walls of the magistrate court offices when it rains, Leggett said, and the TV was damaged after this occurred last year. However, an employee discovered the TV still worked, and the court put it to use, placing it in an empty office where those involved in court cases can view it.
Some other counties have video kiosks in their courthouse hallways, Leggett said, but viewing can be problematic because of noise and crowding in these areas. Gordon County’s setup will allow people to view the video in a quiet, comfortable setting, he said.