Bainbridge native Maggie Rentz Smith named magistrate judge

Published 1:32 pm Thursday, December 31, 2015


Maggie Rentz Smith will take over as Chief Magistrate Judge on January 1st after taking the oaths of office on Tuesday — Brandon O’Connor

For Maggie Rentz Smith the decision to accept the appointment of Chief Magistrate Judge was an easy one.

“It was not a tough decision. I knew that I was going to take it, Smith said. “It fit into my life really well right now.”

After Judge Ralph Smith decided to retire with a year remaining in his current term as Chief Magistrate a quick decision had to be made on who would be his successor.

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“It all happened very quickly. With Judge [Ralph] Smith retiring in the middle of an elected term it kind of had to happen that way,” Maggie Smith said.

Smith, a graduate of Bainbridge High, has practiced law locally since 2011 as a partner in The Smith Group, LLC. Before returning home to open a private practice with her husband she spent four years in Atlanta working for the law firm of Lamberth, Cifelli, Stokes, Ellis & Nason, P.A.

“When I was in Atlanta I did primarily business bankruptcy,” Smith said. “Since I moved back here I have had more of a general practice.”

One of her main areas of focus during her time in Bainbridge has been working with kids who have found themselves in juvenile court.

“I’ve practiced a lot in juvenile court since I’ve been back,” Smith said. “The practice that I do in juvenile court I work with kids. And I have really enjoyed that public service aspect of it.”

She plans to continue doing her work in juvenile court while serving as the Chief Magistrate judge.

“I won’t practice as much as I did,” Smith said. “I’ll still try to practice a little bit. For the time being anyways.”

As Chief Magistrate, Smith will handle a variety of civil and criminal cases.

“Magistrate court is a very important part of both the criminal justice system and the civil court system,” Smith said. “It is sort of the court of first impression for a lot of things.”

In criminal proceedings, the Magistrate court handles first appearances.

On the civil side Smith feels that she can make a large impact in the area of small claims court where citizens can bring their claims if the monetary value of the claim is less than $15,000.

“For the most part the people don’t have a lawyer [in small claims court],” Smith said. “It’s a place for people that otherwise couldn’t have an avenue to pursue claims that they have or defend claims that other people have against them.”

Smith will begin her yearlong term on January 1st and although she has not made a final decision she said she expects that she will run for reelection in the November 2016 elections.

“I still have a long way to go, but I think I’m going to enjoy it,” Smith said. “I hope the county is happy with the work that I do. “


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