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Any individual who has the power of a public civil officer or inferior judicial officer, such as a Justice of the Peace.

The various state judicial systems provide for judicial officers who are often called magistrates, justices of the peace, or police justices. The authority of these officials is restricted by statute, and jurisdiction is commonly limited to the county in which the official presides. The position may be elected or appointed, depending on the governing state statute. The exact role of the official varies by state; it may include handling hearings regarding violations of motor vehicle codes or breaches of the peace, presiding over criminal preliminary hearings, officiating marriages, and dispensing civil actions involving small sums of money.

U.S. magistrates are judicial officers appointed by the judges of federal district courts pursuant to the United States Magistrates Act (28 U.S.C.A. §§ 631 et seq.), enacted in 1968. This act was designed to reduce the workload of federal courts by replacing the old system of U.S. commissioners with a new system of U.S. magistrates. U.S. magistrates can perform more judicial functions than could U.S. commissioners. Federal magistrates may be assigned some, but not all, of the duties of a federal judge. They may serve as special masters (persons appointed by the court to carry out a particular judicial function on behalf of the court), supervise pretrial or discovery proceedings, and provide preliminary consideration of petitions for postconviction relief. U.S. magistrates generally may not decide motions to dismiss or motions for Summary Judgment, because these motions involve ultimate decision making, a responsibility and duty of the federal courts. However, if all the parties to a case agree, a federal magistrate may decide such motions and may even conduct a civil or misdemeanor criminal trial. Federal magistrates are not permitted to preside over felony trials or over jury selection in felony cases.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


n. 1) a generic term for any judge of a court, or anyone officially performing a judge's functions. 2) In a few states, an officer of the court at the lowest level which hears small claims lawsuits, serves as a judge for charges of minor crimes, and/or conducts preliminary hearings in criminal cases to determine if there is enough evidence presented by the prosecution to hold the accused for trial. 3) in Federal Courts, an official who conducts routine hearings assigned by the federal judges, including preliminary hearings in criminal cases. (See: judge, justice of the peace, preliminary hearing)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.


an inferior judge. In England and Scotland, they are primarily lay posts filled by ordinary members of the public. Stipendiary magistrates are qualified lawyers who hold the post in the busiest courts.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

MAGISTRATE, mun. law. A public civil officer, invested with some part of the legislative, executive, or judicial power given by the constitution. In a narrower sense this term includes only inferior judicial officers, as justices of the peace.
     2. The president of the United States is the chief magistrate of this nation; the governors are the chief magistrates of their respective states.
     3. It is the duty of all magistrates to exercise the power, vested in them for the good of the people, according to law, and with zeal and fidelity. A neglect on the part of a magistrate to exercise the functions of his office, when required by law, is a misdemeanor. Vide 15 Vin. Ab. 144; Ayl. Pand. tit. 22; Dig. 30, 16, 57; Merl. Rep. h.t.; 13 Pick. R. 523.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in periodicals archive ?
The Stipendiary Magistrate: - You have got to submit to discipline.
Cromer stipendiary magistrate Patrick Heley told him: "Your behaviour almost beggars belief."
Yesterday he was refused entry to the dock at the Bow Street court because he would not wear his clothes and stipendiary magistrate Nathan Evans told the hearing: "The trial should take place in public of course.
GREAT WAR The stipendiary magistrate sent the two young men, Edward McTaggart and William Kelly, to prison for three months in the juvenile section, saying that they were associated with a class of young men who had become a serious menace to the community.
Stipendiary magistrate Euan Edment told Younis: "This woman would not expect you to show her such graphic and abhorrent images.
Stipendiary magistrate Geraint Watkins told the teenager the offences had affected the girls in question and he had 'considered very greatly' if he should be detained.
In July this year she appeared before a stipendiary magistrate, who found her guilty of assault.
But Chief Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate Graham Parkinson gave him permission to stay with a friend on Teesside so he could watch tomorrow's match against Leeds United at the Riverside Stadium.
But the stipendiary magistrate refused to accept Bethell's third party plea and charged the 28-year-old with contempt during an improvised hearing through the cell door.
The Stipendiary Magistrate: - Well, then you are an American.
He told stipendiary magistrate Robert Hamilton he would not pay.
He became acting stipendiary magistrate at Rotherham in 1991 before moving to Liverpool in 1995.