John Jay (Gilbert Stuart portrait).jpg
John Jay, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (1789–95)
NamesJudge, freedom, justice, and magistrate
Activity sectors
Law, Justice
Education required
University degree in law and experience as a lawyer
Fields of
Related jobs
Barrister, prosecutor

A judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone or as a part of a panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, discipline, and training of judges vary widely across different jurisdictions. The judge is supposed to conduct the trial impartially and, typically, in an open court. The judge hears all the witnesses and any other evidence presented by the barristers of the case, assesses the credibility and arguments of the parties, and then issues a ruling on the matter at hand based on his or her interpretation of the law and his or her own personal judgment. In some jurisdictions, the judge's powers may be shared with a jury. In inquisitorial systems of criminal investigation, a judge might also be an examining magistrate.


The ultimate task of a judge is to settle a legal dispute in a final and public manner, and thus affirm the rule of law. Judges exercise significant governmental power. They can order police, military or judicial officials to execute searches, arrests, imprisonments, garnishments, distrainments, seizures, deportations and similar actions. However, judges also supervise that trial procedures are followed, in order to ensure consistency and impartiality and avoid arbitrariness. The powers of a judge are checked by higher courts such as appeals courts and supreme courts.

Before the trial, a pre-trial investigation collecting the facts has been conducted by police officials, such as police officers and coroners, prosecutors or public procurators. The court usually has three main legally trained court officials: the judge, the prosecutor and the defence attorney. The role of a judge varies between legal systems. In an adversarial system (common law), as in effect in the U.S. and England, the judge functions as an impartial referee, mainly ensuring correct procedure, while the prosecution and the defense present their case to a jury, often selected from common citizens. The main factfinder is the jury, and the judge will then finalize sentencing. Nevertheless, in smaller cases judges can issue summary judgments without proceeding to a jury trial. In an inquisitorial system (civil law), as in effect in continental Europe, there is no jury and the main factfinder is the judge, who will do the presiding, judging and sentencing on his own. As such, the judge is expected to apply the law directly, as in the French expression Le juge est la bouche de la loi ("The judge is the mouth of the law"). Furthermore, in some system even investigation may be conducted by the judge, functioning as an examining magistrate.

Judges may work alone in smaller cases, but in criminal, family and other significant cases, they work in a panel. In some civil law systems, this panel may include lay judges. Unlike professional judges, lay judges are not legally trained, but unlike jurors, lay judges are usually volunteers and may be politically appointed. Judges are often assisted by law clerks, referendaries and notaries in legal cases and by bailiffs or similar with security.

Requirements and appointment

There are both volunteer and professional judges. A volunteer judge, such as an English magistrate, is not required to have legal training and is unpaid. Whereas, a professional judge is required to be legally educated; in the U.S., this generally requires a degree of Juris Doctor. Furthermore, significant professional experience is often required; for example, in the U.S., judges are often appointed from experienced attorneys. Judges are often appointed by the head of state. In some U.S. jurisdictions, however, judges are elected in a political election.

Impartiality is often considered important for rule of law. Thus, in many jurisdictions judges may be appointed for life, so that they cannot be removed by the executive. However, in non-democratic systems, the appointment of judges may be highly politicized and they often receive instructions on how to judge, and may be removed if their conduct doesn't please the political leadership.

Judge as an occupation

Judges must be able to research and process extensive lengths of documents and other case material, understand complex cases and possess a thorough understanding of the law and legal procedure, which requires excellent skills in logical reasoning, analysis and decision-making. Excellent writing skills are also a necessity, given the finality and authority of the documents written. Judges work with people all the time; by the nature of the job, good dispute resolution and interpersonal skills are a necessity.[1] Judges are required to have good moral character, i.e. there must be no history of crime. Professional judges often enjoy a high salary, in the U.S. the median salary of judges is $101,690 per annum,[1] and federal judges earn $205,100-$263,300 per annum.[2]

Other Languages
Адыгэбзэ: ХеящӀэ
العربية: قاضي
asturianu: Xuez
azərbaycanca: Hakim (hüquq)
বাংলা: বিচারক
Bân-lâm-gú: Hoat-koaⁿ
беларуская: Суддзя
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Судзьдзя
български: Съдия
བོད་ཡིག: ཁྲིམས་དཔོན།
català: Jutge
čeština: Soudce
Cymraeg: Barnwr
dansk: Dommer
Deutsch: Richter
eesti: Kohtunik
Ελληνικά: Δικαστής
español: Juez
Esperanto: Juĝisto
euskara: Epaile
فارسی: قاضی
français: Juge
Frysk: Rjochter
Gàidhlig: Breitheamh
galego: Xuíz
한국어: 법관
Հայերեն: Դատավոր
हिन्दी: न्यायधीश
hrvatski: Sudac
Bahasa Indonesia: Hakim
íslenska: Dómari
italiano: Giudice
עברית: שופט
Kiswahili: Hakimu
Kreyòl ayisyen: Jij
Latina: Iudex
latviešu: Tiesnesis
lietuvių: Teisėjas
Bahasa Melayu: Hakim
Mirandés: Juiç
မြန်မာဘာသာ: တရားသူကြီး
Nederlands: Rechter
日本語: 裁判官
norsk: Dommer
norsk nynorsk: Dommar i retten
occitan: Jutge
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Sudya
polski: Sędzia
português: Juiz
română: Judecător
Runa Simi: Taripakuq
русский: Судья
Scots: Judge
Simple English: Judge
سنڌي: جج
slovenčina: Sudca
slovenščina: Sodnik
српски / srpski: Судија
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Sudija
suomi: Tuomari
svenska: Domare
Tagalog: Hukom
Türkçe: Hâkim (hukuk)
українська: Суддя
اردو: قاضی
Tiếng Việt: Thẩm phán
ייִדיש: ריכטער
中文: 法官