March 21, 1978


TO: Magistrates
FROM: Neal Forney, Assistant Director
RE: Magistrates Do Not Have Authority to Vacate Judgments

At the recent school for magistrates it was reported that a significant number of magistrates are from time to time vacating judgments and declaring sentences null and void. The procedure being followed by these magistrates in vacating judgments was being confused with the authority of the magistrates to suspend sentences under Section 22-5-800 or to grant new trials under Section 22-3-990.

To clarify the situation an Opinion has been obtained from the Office of the Attorney General about the authority of magistrates to vacate judgments. The conclusion of the Opinion is, ". . . magistrates have no general authority to vacate judgments and declare sentences null and void beyond that referred by Section 22-3-990" (new trials).