Judges, Magistrates, and Other Judicial Workers
- A bachelors degree and work experience are the minimum requirements for a
judgeship or magistrate position, but most workers filling these positions
also have law degrees.
- Overall employment is projected to grow about as fast as the average, but
varies by occupational specialty.
- Judges and magistrates are expected encounter competition for jobs because
of the prestige associated with serving on the bench.
Judges, magistrates, and other judicial workers apply the law and oversee the
legal process in courts according to local, State, and Federal statutes. They
preside over cases concerning every aspect of society, from traffic offenses to
disputes over the management of professional sports to issues concerning the
rights of huge corporations. All judicial workers must ensure that trials and
hearings are conducted fairly and that the court safeguards the legal rights of
all parties involved.
The most visible responsibility of judges is presiding over trials or
hearings and listening as attorneys represent the parties present. Judges rule
on the admissibility of evidence and the methods of conducting testimony, and
they may be called on to settle disputes between opposing attorneys. Also, they
ensure that rules and procedures are followed, and, if unusual circumstances
arise for which standard procedures have not been established, judges interpret
the law to determine the manner in which the trial will proceed.
Judges often hold pretrial hearings for cases. They listen to allegations and
determine whether the evidence presented merits a trial. In criminal cases,
judges may decide that persons charged with crimes should be held in jail
pending trial, or they may set conditions for their release. In civil cases,
they occasionally impose restrictions on the parties until a trial is held.
In many trials, juries are selected to decide guilt or innocence in criminal
cases or liability and compensation in civil cases. Judges instruct juries on
applicable laws, direct them to deduce the facts from the evidence presented,
and hear their verdict. When the law does not require a jury trial or when the
parties waive their right to a jury, judges decide cases. In such instances, the
judge determines guilt in criminal cases and imposes sentences; in civil cases,
the judge awards relief such as compensation for damages to the parties to the
lawsuit, called litigants. Judges also work outside the courtroom in their
chambers or private offices. There, judges read documents on pleadings and
motions, research legal issues, write opinions, and oversee the courts
operations. In some jurisdictions, judges also manage the courts administrative
and clerical staff.
Judges duties vary according to the extent of their jurisdictions and
powers. General trial court judges of the Federal and State court systems
have jurisdiction over any case in their system. They usually try civil cases
transcending the jurisdiction of lower courts and all cases involving felony
offenses. Federal and State appellate court judges, although few in
number, have the power to overrule decisions made by trial court or
administrative law judges; appellate court judges exercise their power if
they determine that legal errors were made in a case or if legal precedent does
not support the judgment of the lower court. Appellate court judges rule on a
small number of cases and rarely have direct contact with litigants. Instead,
they usually base their decisions on lower court records and on lawyers written
and oral arguments.
Many State court judges preside in courts whose jurisdiction is limited by
law to certain types of cases. A variety of titles are assigned to these judges;
among the most common are municipal court judge, county court judge,
magistrate, and justice of the peace. Traffic violations,
misdemeanors, small-claims cases, and pretrial hearings constitute the bulk of
the work of State court judges, but some States allow these judges to handle
cases involving domestic relations, probate, contracts, and other selected areas
of the law.
Administrative law judges, sometimes called hearing officers or
adjudicators, are employed by government agencies to make determinations for
administrative agencies. These judges make decisions, for example, on a persons
eligibility for various Social Security or workers compensation benefits, on
protection of the environment, on the enforcement of health and safety
regulations, on employment discrimination, and on compliance with economic
Arbitration, mediation, and conciliation collectively called appropriate
dispute resolution (ADR) are alternative processes that can be used to settle
disputes between parties. All ADR hearings are private and confidential, and the
processes are less formal than a court trial. If no settlement is reached
through ADR, no statements made during the proceedings are admissible as
evidence in any subsequent litigation.
There are two types of arbitration compulsory and voluntary. During
compulsory arbitration, opposing parties submit their dispute to one or more
impartial persons, called arbitrators, for a final and nonbinding decision.
Either party may reject the ruling and request a trial in court. Voluntary
arbitration is a process in which opposing parties choose one or more
arbitrators to hear their dispute and submit a final, binding decision.
Arbitrators usually are attorneys or business persons with expertise in a
particular field. The parties identify, in advance, the issues to be resolved by
arbitration, the scope of the relief to be awarded, and many of the procedural
aspects of the process.
Mediation, or neutral evaluation, involves an attempt by the parties to
resolve their dispute with the aid of a neutral third party. This process
generally is used when the parties wish to preserve their relationship. A
mediator may offer suggestions, but resolution of the dispute rests with the
parties themselves. Mediation proceedings also are confidential and private. If
the parties are unable to reach a settlement, they are free to pursue other
options. The parties usually decide in advance how they will contribute to the
cost of mediation. However, many mediators volunteer their services, or they may
be court staff. Courts ask that voluntary mediators provide their services at
the lowest possible rate and that parties split the cost. Depending on the type
of case, court-referred community mediation centers may charge a small fee to
the parties involved in mediation.
Conciliation, or facilitation, is similar to mediation. The conciliators
role is to guide the parties to a settlement. The parties must decide in advance
whether they will be bound by the conciliators recommendations; they generally
share equally in the cost of the conciliation.
Judges, magistrates, and other judicial workers do most of their work in
offices, law libraries, and courtrooms. Work in these occupations presents few
hazards, although sitting in the same position in the courtroom for long periods
can be tiring. Most judges wear robes when they are in a courtroom. Judges
typically work a standard 40-hour week, but many work more than 50 hours per
week. Some judges with limited jurisdiction are employed part time and divide
their time between their judicial responsibilities and other careers.
Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators usually work in private offices or
meeting rooms; no public record is made of the proceedings.
Qualifications, and Advancement
A bachelors degree and work experience usually constitute the minimum
requirements for a judgeship or magistrate position. A number of lawyers become
judges, and most judges have first been lawyers. In fact, Federal and State
judges usually are required to be lawyers. About 40 States allow non lawyers to
hold limited-jurisdiction judgeships, but opportunities are better for those
with law experience. Federal administrative law judges must be lawyers and pass
a competitive examination administered by the U.S. Office of Personnel
Management. Some State administrative law judges and other hearing officials are
not required to be lawyers.
Federal administrative law judges are appointed by various Federal agencies,
with virtually lifetime tenure. Federal magistrate judges are appointed by
district judges the life-tenured Federal judges of district courts to serve in a
U.S. district court for 8 years. A part-time Federal magistrate judges term of
office is 4 years. Some State judges are appointed, but the remainder are
elected in partisan or nonpartisan State elections. Many State and local judges
serve fixed renewable terms ranging from 4 or 6 years for some trial court
judgeships to as long as 14 years or even life for other trial or appellate
court judgeships. Judicial nominating commissions, composed of members of the
bar and the public, are used to screen candidates for judgeships in many States
and for some Federal judgeships.
All States have some type of orientation for newly elected or appointed
judges. The Federal Judicial Center, American Bar Association, National Judicial
College, and National Center for State Courts provide judicial education and
training for judges and other judicial-branch personnel. General and continuing
education courses usually last from a few days to 3 weeks in length. More than
half of all States, as well as Puerto Rico, require judges to enroll in
continuing education courses while serving on the bench.
Training and education requirements for arbitrators, mediators, and
conciliators differ from those for judges. Mediators who practice in
State-funded or court-funded mediation programs usually must meet specific
training or experience standards, which vary by State and court. In most States,
individuals who offer private mediation services do not need a license,
certification, or specific coursework; however, many private mediators and most
of those affiliated with mediation organizations and programs have completed
mediation training and agreed to comply with certain ethical standards. For
example, the American Arbitration Association (AAA) requires mediators listed on
its mediation panel to complete an AAA training course, receive recommendations
from the trainers, and complete an apprenticeship.
Training for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators is available through
independent mediation programs, national and local mediation membership
organizations, and postsecondary schools. In 2004, 16 colleges or universities
in the United States offered masters degrees in dispute resolution or conflict
management, and 2 offered doctoral degrees. Many more schools offer
conflict-management specializations within other degree programs. Degrees in
public policy, law, and related fields also provide good background for
prospective arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators.
Judges, magistrates, and other judicial workers held 47,000 jobs in 2004.
Judges, magistrates, and magistrate judges held 27,000 jobs, all in State and
local governments. Administrative law judges, adjudicators, and hearing officers
held about 16,000 jobs; 52 percent in State governments, 29 percent Federal
Government, and 20 percent in local governments. Arbitrators, mediators, and
conciliators held another 5,200 jobs. Approximately 40 percent worked for State
and local governments. The remainder worked for labor organizations, law
offices, insurance carriers, and other private companies and for organizations
that specialize in providing dispute resolution services.
Overall employment of judges, magistrates, and other judicial workers is
projected to about as fast as average for all occupations through 2014.
Budgetary pressures at all levels of government will hold down the hiring of
judges, despite rising caseloads, particularly in Federal courts. Most job
openings will arise as judges retire. However, additional openings will occur
when new judgeships are authorized by law or when judges are elevated to higher
Public concerns about crime and safety, as well as a public willingness to go
to court to settle disputes, should spur demand for judges. Both the quantity
and the complexity of judges work have increased because of developments in
information technology, medical science, electronic commerce, and globalization.
The prestige associated with serving on the bench will ensure continued
competition for judge and magistrate positions. However, a growing number of
judges and candidates for judgeships are choosing to forgo the bench and work in
the private sector, where pay is significantly higher. This movement may lessen
the competition somewhat. Becoming a judge often is difficult because judicial
candidates must compete with other qualified people and because they frequently
must gain political support to be elected or appointed, and getting that support
can be expensive.
Employment of arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators is expected to grow
about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2014. Many individuals
and businesses try to avoid litigation, which can involve lengthy delays, high
costs, unwanted publicity, and ill will. Arbitration and other alternatives to
litigation usually are faster, less expensive, and more conclusive, spurring
demand for the services of arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators.
Administrative law judges also are expected to experience average growth in
Judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates had median annual earnings of
$93,070 in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $54,140 and $124,400.
The top 10 percent earned more than $141,750, while the bottom 10 percent earned
less than $29,920. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the
largest numbers of judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates in May 2004 were
$111,810 in State government and $65,800 in local government. Administrative law
judges, adjudicators, and hearing officers earned a median of $68,930, and
arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators earned a median of $54,760.
In the Federal court system, the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
earned $208,100 in 2005, and the Associate Justices earned $199,200. Federal
court of appeals judges earned $171,800 a year, while district court judges had
salaries of $162,100, as did judges in the Court of Federal Claims and the Court
of International Trade. Federal judges with limited jurisdiction, such as
magistrates and bankruptcy court judges, had salaries of $149,132.
According to a 2004 survey by the National Center for State Courts, salaries
of chief justices of State high courts averaged $130,461 and ranged from $95,000
to $191,483. Annual salaries of associate justices of the State highest courts
averaged $126,159 and ranged from $95,000 to $175,575. Salaries of State
intermediate appellate court judges averaged $122,682 and ranged from $94,212 to
$164,604. Salaries of State judges of general jurisdiction trial courts averaged
$113,504 and ranged from $88,164 to $158,100.
Most salaried judges are provided health, life, and dental insurance; pension
plans; judicial immunity protection; expense accounts; vacation, holiday, and
sick leave; and contributions to retirement plans made on their behalf. In many
States, judicial compensation committees, which make recommendations on the
amount of salary increases, determine judicial salaries. States without
commissions have statutes that regulate judicial salaries, link judicial
salaries to the increases in pay for Federal judges, or adjust annual pay
according to the change in the Consumer Price Index, calculated by the U.S.
Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Legal training and mediation skills are useful to those in many other
occupations, including counselors; lawyers; paralegals and legal assistants;
title examiners, abstractors, and searchers; law clerks; and private detectives
Sources of Additional
Information on judges, magistrates, and other judicial workers may be obtained
Information on arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators may be obtained from:
- American Arbitration Association, 335 Madison Ave., Floor 10, New York, NY
Suggested citation: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S.
Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07
Judges, Magistrates, and Other Judicial Workers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos272.htm
(visited May 12, 2006).