Horry County magistrate offices have heavy workload


HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Several magistrate offices in Horry County process thousands of cases every year.

Seven magistrate offices in Horry County handle lawsuits up to $7,500, and criminal cases with the potential for a 30-day sentence or up to a $1,000 fine, said Judge Chris Arakas, who works at the Myrtle Beach magistrate office.

Between 6,000 and 7,000 cases go through the magistrate office in Myrtle Beach every year, the highest of any of the seven offices, according to a study requested by the Horry County Public Safety Committee.

Arakas said his office handles the workload well and he attributes that to the efficiency and professionalism of his five administrative assistants.

However, he said having another staff member would be a tremendous help. For comparison, the Mt. Olive office in Green Sea sees about 330 cases each year.

That office has only two support staff members compared to Myrtle Beach’s five.

The Surfside Beach office has the same number of support staff members as the Mt. Olive office, yet up to 10 times the number of cases.

“There’s really a large disparity with the caseloads,” said Tim Van Pelt of the Horry County Administrator’s Office.

The burden on the staff members in the Surfside Beach office is one concern revealed through a study done on the magistrate offices for the Horry County Public Safety Committee.

“Population is growing down there,” Van Pelt said. “They have a police precinct right outside and right now they only have two staff members and they’re basically carrying the largest workload.”

A staff member in Surfside Beach at the magistrate office is processing about 1,600 cases every year.

Central Traffic Court employees, also part of the magistrate system, have even more, between 5,000 and 7,000 cases a year each. Every traffic ticket is entered into the system by hand.

“That’s a tremendous workload along with having traffic court and doing all of that paperwork and all of the people coming in, all the phone calls,” Van Pelt said. “They’re really busy.”

Administrators are looking at an electronic ticketing system to ease some of the burden on traffic court staff members.

Bond court staff members see big numbers too, more than 3,000 cases each.

“It’s not really more judges that we need,” said Mark Lazarus after hearing comments from Judge Aaron Butler during Tuesday’s public safety committee meeting. “It’s more personnel that do the paperwork and help with some of the issues.”

The new assistant county administrator of public safety, Joe Huffman, said he’ll be reviewing this issue and coming up with a plan, which Lazarus said will then be presented to the delegation, which oversees appointments of magistrate judges.

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