judge

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Judge

To make a decision or reach a conclusion after examining all the factual evidence presented. To form an opinion after evaluating the facts and applying the law.

A public officer chosen or elected to preside over and to administer the law in a court of justice; one who controls the proceedings in a courtroom and decides questions of law or discretion.

As a verb the term judge generally describes a process of evaluation and decision. In a legal case this process may be conducted by either a judge or a jury. Decisions in any case must be based on applicable law. Where the case calls for a jury verdict, the judge tells the jury what law applies to the case.

As a noun judge refers to a person authorized to make decisions. A judge is a court officer authorized to decide legal cases. A judge presiding over a case may initiate investigations on related matters, but generally judges do not have the power to conduct investigations for other branches or agencies of government.

Judges must decide cases based on the applicable law. In some cases a judge may be asked to declare that a certain law is unconstitutional. Judges have the power to rule that a law is unconstitutional and therefore void, but they must give proper deference to the legislative body that enacted the law.

There are two types of judges: trial court and appellate. Trial court judges preside over trials, usually from beginning to end. They decide pretrial motions, define the scope of discovery, set the trial schedule, rule on oral motions during trial, control the behavior of participants and the pace of the trial, advise the jury of the law in a jury trial, and sentence a guilty defendant in a criminal case.

Appellate judges hear appeals from decisions of the trial courts. They review trial court records, read briefs submitted by the parties, and listen to oral arguments by attorneys, and then decide whether error or injustice occurred in the trial.

Judges can also be distinguished according to their jurisdiction. For example, federal court judges differ from state court judges. They operate in different courtrooms, and they hear different types of cases. A federal court judge hears cases that fall within federal jurisdiction. Generally, this means cases that involve a question of federal law or the U.S. Constitution, involve parties from different states, or name the United States as a party. State court judges hear cases involving state law, and they also have jurisdiction over many federal cases.

Some judges can hear only certain cases in Special Courts with limited subject matter jurisdiction. For example, a federal Bankruptcy court judge may preside over only bankruptcy cases. Other special courts with limited Subject Matter Jurisdiction include tax, probate, juvenile, and traffic courts.

Justices make up the upper echelon of appellate judges. The term justice generally describes judges serving on the highest court in a jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions a justice may be any appellate judge.

Judges are either appointed or elected. On the federal level, district court judges, appellate court judges, and justices of the Supreme Court are appointed by the president subject to the approval of Congress. On the state level, judges may be appointed by the governor, selected by a joint ballot of the two houses of the state legislature, or elected by the voters of the state.

On the federal level, judges have lifetime tenure. Most state court judges hold their office for a specified number of years. If a state court judge is appointed by the governor, the judge's term may be established by the governor. In some states a judge's term is fixed by statute. All state jurisdictions have a mandatory retirement age. In New Hampshire, for example, a judge must retire by age 70 (N.H. Const. pt. 2, art. 78). There is no mandatory retirement age for justices and judges on the federal level.

Judges' retirement benefits are provided for by statute. On the federal level, a retiring judge may receive for the remainder of the judge's life the salary that she or he was receiving at the time of retirement. To qualify for retirement benefits, a judge must meet minimum service requirements. For example, a judge who retires at age 65 must have served 15 years as a judge in the federal court system; at age 66, 14 years; and so on until age 70 (§ 371). If a judge is forced to retire because of disability and has not qualified for benefits under § 371, the judge may still receive a full salary for life if she or he served 10 years. If the judge served less than 10 years, she or he may receive half of her or his salary for life (28 U.S.C.A. § 372).

Judges must follow ethical rules. In all jurisdictions statutes specify that a judge may hold office only during a time of good behavior. If a judge violates the law or an ethical rule, the judge may be removed from office. In jurisdictions in which judges are elected, they may be removed from office by popular vote or impeached by act of the legislature. In states where judges are appointed, the legislature or the governor is authorized to remove them from office, but only for ethical or legal violations. This is because the power of the judiciary is separate from and equal to the power of the legislative and executive branches, and unfettered control of the judiciary by the other two branches would upset the balance of power.

Judges are distinct from magistrates. Magistrates are court officers who are empowered by statute to decide pretrial issues and preside over minor cases. Their judicial powers are limited. In the federal court system, for example, magistrates may not preside over felony criminal trials. They may preside over civil trials and misdemeanor criminal trials, but only with the consent of all the parties (28 U.S.C.A. §§ 631–639).

Cross-references

Canons of Judicial Ethics; Code of Judicial Conduct; Court Opinion; Discretion in Decision Making; Judicial Action; Judicial Conduct; Judicial Review.

judge

1) n. an official with the authority and responsibility to preside in a court, try lawsuits, and make legal rulings. Judges are almost always attorneys. In some states, "justices of the peace" may need only to pass a test, and federal and state "administrative law judges" are often lawyer or non-lawyer hearing officers specializing in the subject matter upon which they are asked to rule. The word "court" often refers to the judge, as in the phrase "the court found the defendant at fault," or "may it please the court," when addressing the judge. The word "bench" also refers to the judge or judges in general. Judges on appeals courts are usually called "Justices." Judges of courts established by a state at the county, district, city or township level, gain office by election, by appointment by the Governor, or by some judicial selection process in case of a vacancy. Federal Judges are appointed for life by the President of the United States with confirmation by the United States Senate. A Senator of the same party as the President has considerable clout in recommending federal judges from his/her home state. 2) v. to rule on a legal matter, including determining the result in a trial if there is no jury. (See: jurist, court, justice, magistrate, bench, administrative law judge, justice of the peace)

judge

1 a public official with authority to hear cases in a court of law and pronounce judgment upon them.
2 to hear and decide upon or to pass judgment on; sentence.

JUDGE. A public officer, lawfully appointed to decide litigated questions according to law. This, in its most extensive sense, includes all officers who are appointed to decide such questions, and not only judges properly so called, but also justices of the peace, and jurors, who are judges of the facts in issue. See 4 Dall. 229; 3 Yeates, IR. 300. In a more limited sense, the term judge signifies an officer who is so named in his commission, and who presides in some court.
     2. Judges are appointed or elected, in a variety of ways, in the United States they are appointed by the president, by and with the consent of the senate; in some of the states they are appointed by the governor, the governor and senate, or by the legislature. In the United States, and some of the states, they hold their offices during good behaviour; in others, as in New York, during, good behaviour, or until they shall attain a certain age and in others for a limited term of years.
     3. Impartiality is the first duty of a judge; before he gives an opinion, or sits in judgment in a cause, he ought to be certain that he has no bias for or against either of the parties; and if he has any (the slightest) interest in the cause, he is disqualified from sitting as judge; aliquis non debet esse judex in propria causa; 8 Co. 118; 21 Pick. Rep. 101; 5 Mass. 92; 13 Mass. 340; 6 Pick. R. 109; 14 S. & R. 157-8; and when he is aware of such interest, he ought himself to refuse to sit on the case. It seems it is discretionary with him whether he will sit in a cause in which he has been of counsel. 2 Marsh. 517; Coxe, 164; see 2 Binn. 454. But the delicacy which characterizes the judges in this country, generally, forbids their sitting in such a cause.
     4. He must not only be impartial, but he must follow and enforce the law, whether good or bad. He is bound to declare what the law is, and not to make it; he is not an arbitrator, but an interpreter of the law. It is his duty to be patient in the investigation of the case, careful in considering it, and firm in his judgment. He ought, according to Cicero, "never to lose sight that he is a man, and that he cannot exceed the power given him by his commission; that not only power, but public confidence has been given to him; that he ought always seriously to attend not to his wishes but to the requisitions of law, of justice and religion." Cic. pro. Cluentius. A curious case of judicial casuistry is stated by Aulus Gellius Att. Noct. lib: 14, cap. 2, which may be interesting to the reader.
     5. While acting within the bounds of his jurisdiction, the judge is hot responsible for any error of judgment, nor mistake he may commit as a judge. Co. Litt. 294; 2 Inst. 422; 2 Dall. R. 160; 1 Yeates, R. 443; N. & M'C. 168; 1 Day, R. 315; 1 Root, R. 211; 3 Caines, R. 170; 5 John. R. 282; 9 John. R. 395; 11 John. R. 150; 3 Marsh. R. 76; 1 South. R. 74; 1 N. H. Rep. 374; 2 Bay, 1, 69; 8 Wend. 468; 3 Marsh. R. 76,. When he acts corruptly, he may be impeached. 5 John. R. 282; 8 Cowen, R. 178; 4 Dall. R. 225.
     6. A judge is not competent as a witness in a cause trying before him, for this, among other reasons, that he can hardly be deemed capable of impartially deciding on the admissibility of his own testimony, or of weighing. it against that of another. Martin's R. N. S. 312. Vide, Com. Dig. Courts, B 4, C 2, E 1, P 16 justices, 1 1, 2, and 3; 14 Vin. Ab. 573; Bac. Ab. Courts, &c., B; 1 Kent, Com. 291; Ayl. Parerg. 309; Story, Const. Index, h.t. See U. S. Dig. Courts, I, where will be found an abstract of various decisions relating to the appointment and powers of judges in different states. Vide Equality; Incompetency.;

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