What is a Judge?

Also known as: Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Supreme Court Judge, Hanging Judge, Senior Judge, Chief Judge, Probate Judge, Trial Judge, Presiding Judge, District Judge, Court of Appeals Judge, Circuit Judge, County Judge, Circuit Court Judge, Superior Court Judge, District Court Judge, Magistrate Judge.

Judges apply the law to court cases and oversee the legal process in courts. They also resolve administrative disputes and facilitate negotiations between opposing parties. Most judges are employed in the various levels of government. Most work in courts, and the majority work full time.

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What does a Judge do?

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 offences 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.

Types of Judges:

  • Bankruptcy Judge
  • Probate Judge
  • Trial Judge
  • Presiding Judge
  • Magistrate Judge
  • Family Law Judge
  • Superior Court Judge
  • District Court Judge
  • Chief Judge
  • Senior Judge
  • Circuit Judge
  • Court of Appeals Judge
  • Hanging Judge
  • Administrative Law Judge
  • County Judge

How to become a Judge

Judges are required to have a law degree and work experience as a lawyer. Getting a law degree usually takes seven years of full-time study after high school—four years of undergraduate study, followed by three years of law school. Law degree programs include courses such as constitutional law, contracts, property law, civil procedure, and legal writing.

Additionally, most judges must be either appointed or elected into judge positions, a procedure that often takes political support. Many judges are appointed to serve fixed renewable terms, ranging from four years to 14 years. A few judges, such as appellate court judges, are appointed for life.

Judicial nominating commissions screen candidates for judgeships in many local jurisdictions and for some federal judgeships. Some judges are elected to a specific term, commonly four years. All jurisdictions have some type of orientation for newly elected or appointed judges.

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Further Reading

  • What Is A Judge?

    A judge is an appointed or elected magistrate who presides over court proceedings. A judge rules on questions of law, acts as a referee between the litigating parties and renders decisions in legal disputes.

  • Why A Lawyer Becomes A Judge

    Some judges are appointed and some are elected. But all judge positions come with perks and opportunities that appeal to many lawyers.

  • The Qualities Of A Good Judge

    What are the qualities that should be identified and then sought after in an applicant for judicial office?

  • Becoming A Judge (In England And Wales)

    Are you interested in joining the judiciary? Judges deal with criminal, civil and family cases at courts throughout England and Wales.

  • So You Want To Be A Judge?

    Four members of the bench answer the questions you need to ask before making your move.

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