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Magistrate chief judge sworn in

LAWRENCEVILLE - The trifecta was too much for Warren Davis: Three years after he became a Magistrate Court judge, George F. Hutchinson (the third) was sworn in as the county's third-ever chief of the court.

"That's a lot of threes," Davis joked after he handed over the keys to the chief's office Friday.

Hutchinson, a former prosecutor, was appointed by Gwinnett's Superior Court judges to head the bench after Davis was appointed to a higher bench.

"Magistrate Court is really the emergency room of the courts," Hutchinson said of the bench, where warrants are signed, first court appearances are made, bond is set, landlord-tenant disputes are settled, small claims are heard, marriage ceremonies are performed and more.

Between criminal, civil and family violence cases, the court's five full-time and 21 part-time judges heard more than 70,000 cases in 2007.

"I understand the weight and importance of what Magistrate is called to do," Hutchinson said to a standing-room only crowd of more than 100 members of the law enforcement and legal community who came out to witness his oath of office. "Today, I'm committing myself to continue that service to the citizens of Gwinnett County."

As a former chief of the district attorney's office's white collar crime division, Hutchinson said he is very comfortable with computers, and he hopes to transform the technology for the court.

Davis, who was chief magistrate for two decades, teased that Hutchinson, "a morning lark," might have a tough time with the late nights required of a court that is open 24 hours a day.

"I'm a morning person, but I've already started getting the midnight phone calls," Hutchinson admitted. "Unfortunately, the criminal community doesn't stop committing crimes after business hours."

The 43-year-old from Lawrenceville has cultivated respect across the legal community, as evidenced by the turnout at Friday's ceremony.

"I think George is going to do a great job as chief magistrate," District Attorney Danny Porter said. "I think he's going to continue that tradition of customer service. ... He's very level-headed, and he's not afraid to make the hard decisions."