September 8, 1980


TO: Circuit Judges, Clerks of Court and Magistrates
FROM: L. Edmund Atwater, III, Staff Attorney
RE: Transfer of Civil Cases From Circuit Court to the Magistrate's Court

Magistrate courts of this state have concurrent jurisdictions with the Court of Common Pleas in specified civil actions where the amount in controversy does not exceed $5,000. Circuit judges are advised that it is within their authority to order the transfer of civil cases filed in the circuit court to magistrate's court for disposition where the amount in controversy does not exceed $5,000 and the nature of the action is within the subject matter jurisdiction of magistrate's court. It is suggested that such transfers be made to relieve the congestion in the circuit court system.

So as to assure the orderly transfer of such cases, the following procedure should be followed. Only the Chief Circuit Judge for Administrative Purposes may order the transfer of cases from circuit court to magistrate's court. The Chief Judge should issue an order transferring cases by reference to case name and case number. This order should then be filed with the clerk of court who is then responsible for the physical transfer of the case files. So as to maintain a record of all dispositions of cases originally filed in the Court of Common Pleas, the clerk of court is requested to file a copy of the transfer order for each case to be transferred. This will assure that a record of the transfer on each case in maintained in the Clerk's office. As a matter of reporting, the clerks should mark the case as a transfer with the date of disposition keyed to the filing date of the transfer order. Upon filing of the order of transfer, the clerk should forward to the chief magistrate in their county a certified copy of the order(s) of transfer along with the original pleadings and any other documents or exhibits pertaining to the case. Additionally, it is requested that the clerk notify the attorneys and/or parties in each transferred case.

The chief judge for administrative purposes of the magistrate's courts (chief magistrate) upon receipt of the order of transfer and all pleadings in the cases, should file these cases in their docket for disposition or provide for the assignment of these cases to other magistrates in the county for disposition in their courts. The magistrate who will try the case should enter it in his/her docket book and should notify the parties or their attorneys that the case will be tried in their court. Since a filing fee will have been charged for filing in the circuit court, no additional filing fees should be charged by the magistrate. An appropriate notation to the effect that no filing fee is to be collected should be made in the magistrate's docket book as well as in all other records for reporting purposes to the county treasurer. Additional fees as provided by general statute may be collected however for additional services rendered by the magistrate's court. For cases originating in magistrates' court, there is a five dollar ($5) charge for the clerk to receive and enroll a transcript of the judgment in Circuit Court, S.C. Code Ann. § 8-21-310(11)(c). For those cases originating in Circuit Court, but transferred to Magistrates' Court, the five dollar charge for filing the judgment in circuit court should not be waived, but should be assessed as though the matter originated in Magistrates' Court.

For reporting purposes, the magistrate shall consider the civil case transferred to him/her as a pending case upon the date the case has been received. Upon transfer and filing with the magistrate, the case is then subject to the Order of the Chief Justice requiring that each civil case be disposed of within ninety (90) days unless delayed for good cause shown to the court and reported to Court Administration. In making such a report to Court Administration, a notation should be made indicating that the case, not disposed of within ninety (90) days, is one transferred from circuit court.

The chief circuit court judge for administrative purposes, in considering transfers, may wish to refer to S.C. Code Ann. §§ 22-3-10 and 22-3-20, which set forth the subject matter jurisdiction of the magistrate's court in civil actions. These provisions provide in part that generally the magistrate has jurisdiction up to $5,000 amount in controversy. A magistrate however has no equity jurisdiction beyond that specifically provided for in landlord-tenant matters and claim and delivery actions. Additionally, as indicated in § 22-3-20, a magistrate has no jurisdiction in (1) a civil action in which the State is a party, except an action for a penalty and then not exceeding $100, or (2) when the title to real property is in question.