Forsyth County was part of the Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit which as of 1970, was comprised of Cherokee, Forsyth, Pickens, Gilmer, and Fannin counties. At that time, there were three Superior Court judges who had to “ride” the circuit from county courthouse to county courthouse. This was, as still is, typical of rural Georgia.
In 1973, Forsyth County lost a valuable treasure. The county courthouse, constructed in 1905, burned to the ground. At that time most all of the county offices were housed in the old courthouse. After the fire, mobile trailers had to be brought in to accommodate these offices as well as to provide a suitable place to hold court. Occasionally, it was necessary to schedule court proceedings in the old gym that used to be located on School Street.
A “new” courthouse was dedicated in 1977. Most county offices were still located in the courthouse, which had two courtrooms and a second floor for offices. Additionally, the grand jury and the trial jury assembly room doubled as a county commissioner meeting room where all county commission meetings and planning meetings were held.
In 1983, due to population increases, the judicial circuit was split. The three mountain counties formed the new “Appalachian Judicial Circuit” while Cherokee and Forsyth counties remained in the Blue Ridge Circuit. Two Superior Court judges were assigned to each circuit.
In 1991, because of population increases and rising caseloads, the Blue Ridge Circuit was granted a third Superior Court judge by the General Assembly. Cherokee and Forsyth counties also shared a judge who doubled as a State and Juvenile Court judge. This arrangement was unique in Georgia.
By 1996, Forsyth County’s population had grown significantly and it was determined that a new County Administration building should be constructed. This building is currently in use at the corner of Main and Dahlonega. It was decided at that time that all county administrative offices would be housed in the new building and that the courthouse would be renovated to add a courtroom and judges’ offices to house the judicial functions of the government.
Also in 1996, it was determined that Forsyth County needed its own State and Juvenile court judge. The new judgeship was created by act of the legislature to take effect January 1, 1997.
By 1998, the population in both Cherokee and Forsyth had increased significantly. It was determined that it no longer was necessary to combine both counties into one circuit. Consequently, a new circuit with only Forsyth County was created. The circuit was named “Bell-Forsyth Judicial Circuit” in honor of Col. Hiram Parks Bell, a noted stateman from Forsyth County. The new Bell-Forsyth Judicial Circuit was assigned only one Superior Court judge while Cherokee County retained two judges.
In 1999, it became clear that the caseload was too heavy for one judge to perform the duties of both the State and Juvenile Courts. A grant was then secured to bring in a full-time Juvenile Court judgeship for Forsyth County.
In 2000, again necessitated by an increasing population and caseload, a second Superior Court judgeship was approved by the General Assembly. This required the Juvenile and Probate Courts to move out of the courthouse and relocate into a renovated furniture store to make way for the trial courts. Additionally, the Clerk of Court needed the space that was occupied by the County’s Law Library. The Law Library was forced then to relocate to the basement of the furniture building.
In 2002, a second State Court judgeship was approved. With now four trial judges in the courthouse and only three courtrooms, the grand jury assembly room had to be renovated to allow for a fourth courtroom which would also double as the grand jury assembly room. In addition, a mobile home was added to the courthouse ground s to accommodate the Clerk of Court that had grown out of its space.
In 2003, a Drug Court was established as part of Superior Court to address the growing problem of methamphetamine in the county. Consequently, a Drug Court coordinator was hired which was and remains funded by the Drug Abuse Treatment and Education (D.A.T.E.) fund. The D.A.T.E. Fund is established by statute and funded by fines from drug cases.
In 2009, Superior Court caseloads qualified the circuit for an additional Superior Court judge. However, due to the State budget crisis, a new judge was not approved by the General Assembly.
In 2011, after the budget crisis abated, the circuit secured approved for a third Superior Court judge.
In November 2011, as part of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) VII program, voters approved $100 million to fund a new courthouse, jail expansion and parking facility.
In July 2013, local and state officials, staff, community members and guests gathered in downtown Cumming for a groundbreaking ceremony for Forsyth County’s new courthouse and jail. A Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the new courthouse was held on March 12, 2015.
The following judicial system offices and departments are located in the new Forsyth County Courthouse:
- Court Administration
- Clerk of Court
- District Attorney
- Indigent Defense
- Law Library
- Superior Court
- State Court
- Solicitor General
- Pre-Trial Services