Judicial workers, such as judges and magistrates, preside over legal hearings and trials in a court of law, protecting legal rights of those involved in such proceedings. Presiding over cases from every facet of society, they must remain neutral. Cases that they preside over concern everything from minor traffic law to determining what rights corporations have. Judges mediate attorneys as well as their clients. They determine what evidence is admissible for hearings and trials, rule on objections, and weigh evidence as it is presented. If circumstances are deemed unusual, they will interpret the law as best fits the evidence presented, according to the particular jurisdiction. In some cases a pretrial hearing will be held for the judge to determine if a case should go to trial. It is also a judge’s duty to instruct a jury on their legal duties, if a jury is present.
While most visible at a hearing or trial, judges also work outside of the courtroom, reading documents on motions and pleadings, overseeing other judicial staff, and researching law. Their duties and power are determined by their jurisdiction.
In Federal and State jurisdictions, general trial court judges have jurisdiction over any matter in their circuit. They will often hear cases that have been appealed from lower court circuits. Appellate court judges have the power to overrule the decisions made by administrative law judges or trial court judges if they feel that there was a legal error made during a case or the judgment of a lower court does not support legal precedent. Appellate court judges rarely interact with litigants, usually basing decisions on lawyers’ oral and written arguments and the records from the lower court. Many titles are given to State court judges, such as justice of the peace, magistrate, county court judge, and municipal court judge.
State court judges often hear cases involving traffic violations, small-claims, pre-trial hearings, and misdemeanors. Occasionally they handle cases that involve domestic disputes and relations, contracts, and probate. Administrative judges, also known as adjudicators or hearing officers, are often employed by government agencies to make rulings for administrative agencies, such as Social Security and the Occupational & Safety Health Administration. Mediators, arbitrators, and conciliators are not judges, but facilitate settling disputes outside of a court setting, still maintaining the integrity of laws and statutes.
Training and Education Requirements
Around 40 states allow limited-jurisdiction judgeships for non-lawyers, but chances for advancement and placement are much better with law experience. Being a lawyer is a requirement for Federal and State judges. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management administers the examination that Federal administrative judges must pass. Most judges have experience as lawyers. Minimum requirements for most judges and magistrates are a Bachelor’s degree and law experience. Some judges are elected into office. The requirements for conciliators, arbitrators and mediators vary according to jurisdiction.
Every state has some type of orientation required for newly appointed or elected judges. Judicial education and training for judicial personnel and judges is provided by The National Center for State Courts, National Judicial College, American Bar Association, and The Federal Judicial Center. Continuing education and general courses can last from just a few days to three weeks. They are required for bench-serving judges by over half of the States, including Puerto Rico. Conciliators, mediators and arbitrators obtain training through membership organizations, independent programs, and postsecondary schools. Varied by state and court, mediators must have particular training or experience to serve in State or court-funded programs. A forty hour basic training course and twenty hour advanced course is normal for most mediators to complete.
Salary and Wages
In 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, magistrates, magistrate judges, and judges made a wage median of $110,220. The lower ten percent earned less $32,290, while the top ten percent earned more than $162,240. Hearing officers, adjudicators, and administrative law judges earned a wage median of $76,940. Conciliators, mediators, and arbitrators earned a wage median of $50,660. The U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice earned $217,400 while the Associate Judges earned a mean of $208,100. Federal court-of-appeals judges averaged $179,500, while judges in the Court of Federal Claims, the Court of International Trade, and district court judges averaged $169,300. Limited-jurisdiction Federal judges such as bankruptcy judges and magistrates averaged wages of $155,756.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
As well as enjoying high wages and job security, many judicial workers also receive very good health and insurance benefits as well as sick, vacation, and annual leave.
Judicial workers must receive continuing education, dependent upon their jurisdiction’s requirements. Conciliators, arbitrators, and mediators do not have a national licensure or credentials requirement, as licensure and credentials are dependent upon jurisdictional requirements.
There are numerous professional associations for judicial workers. The American Bar Association, Alliance for Justice, the American Arbitration Association, The American Judicature Society, American Law Institute, the National Center for State Courts, are all associations to help judiciary workers. There are hundreds of associations to help maintain standards, represent the profession, and monitor entry into the judiciary system. A more complete list can be found at http://www.thecre.com/fedlaw/legal91.htm.