Judges typically do the following:
- Research legal issues
- Read and evaluate information from documents such as motions, claim applications, or records
- Preside over hearings and listen to or read arguments by opposing parties
- Determine if the information presented supports the charge, claim, or dispute
- Decide if the procedure is being conducted according to the rules and law
- Analyze, research, and apply laws, regulations, or precedents to reach judgments, conclusions, or agreements
- Write opinions, decisions, or instructions regarding the case, claim, or dispute.
Judges commonly preside over trials or hearings of cases regarding nearly every aspect of society, from individual traffic offenses to issues concerning the rights of large corporations. They listen to arguments and determine whether the evidence presented deserves a trial. In criminal cases, they may decide that people charged with crimes should be held in jail until the trial, or they may set conditions for their release. They also approve search and arrest warrants.
Judges interpret the law to determine how a trial will proceed, which is particularly important when unusual circumstances arise for which standard procedures have not been established. They ensure that hearings and trials are conducted fairly and the legal rights of all involved parties are protected.
In trials in which juries are selected to decide the case, judges instruct jurors on applicable laws and direct them to consider the facts from the evidence. For other trials, judges decide the case.
A judge who determines guilt in criminal cases may impose a sentence or penalty on the guilty party. In civil cases, the judge may award relief, such as compensation for damages, to the parties who win the lawsuit.
Some judges, such as appellate court judges, review decisions and records made by lower courts, and make decisions based on lawyers’ written and oral arguments.
Judges use various forms of technology, such as electronic databases and software, to manage cases and prepare for trials. In some cases, they also may manage the court’s administrative and clerical staff.