Difference between Magistrates and Judges

Key Difference: A Judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone, with a panel of judges or a jury, depending on the jurisdiction. Magistrate is considered as an officer of the state, but could also refer to a judge.

The terms ‘Judges’ and ‘Magistrates’ are often assumed to interchangeable, but this is not the case. Both the titles have two different meanings and refer to two very different positions. The two words defer in terms of power; each person has a different amount of authority and power bestowed upon them.

A Judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone, with a panel of judges or a jury, depending on the jurisdiction. The term ‘Judge’ is defined by Merriam Webster as “to form an opinion about through careful weighing of evidence and testing of premises,” and it originates from the French word ‘juger’ meaning to form an opinion about something. A judge’s power, functions, method of appointment and training all differ depending on different countries and jurisdictions. The judge is expected to hear all witnesses, view all evidences, access the arguments by the prosecutor and the defendant, and form an opinion and give a verdict. A jury may also be involved in some jurisdictions to make a decision.

A judge is expected to handle more complicated cases. In the United States, a federal judge is nominated by the President and approved by the House of Senate. Judges are usually appointed for life, or until they decide to retire. They may even come out of retirement for special reasons or particular cases. They hold more administrative power and have a vast jurisdiction such as capital cities or even the entire country. Judges are responsible for handling criminal cases, federal cases, constitutional cases and high priority cases. A judge also has the power to exercise law enforcement powers. Judges in many countries wear a black robe and sit on a higher level compared to the rest.

On the other hand, a “Magistrate” is considered as an officer of the state, but could also refer to a judge. In ancient Rome, a ‘magistratus’ was regarded as the highest officer of the government who had both, judicial and executive powers. In modern times, subordinate jurisdiction judges in US are sometimes called magistrates, although in the federal court of the United States, they are called magistrate judges. The word ‘magistrate’ is defined as “an official entrusted with administration of the laws,” and is derived from the Middle English word ‘magestrat’ meaning a civil officer that is in charge of administrating laws.

The power of a magistrate, though similar to a judge, is limited. A magistrate is responsible for handling smaller and minor cases. In many countries, a magistrate is appointed by a judge, giving the judge a power over the magistrate. A magistrate serves a limited term; a full-time magistrate serves eight years, while a part-time magistrate serves four years. A magistrate has limited power in terms of authority, law enforcement and jurisdiction. Jurisdiction of a magistrate can fall within a city, county, state or a very small area. Magistrates can also be appointed to court cases by a judge. Black robes are not required for a magistrate in many countries.

 

Judges

Magistrate

Definition

A person who presides over court proceedings, either alone or as part of a panel of judges

A type of administrative officer that has limited authority and power compared to a judge

Etymology

From French word ‘juger’ meaning to form an opinion about something

From Middle English word ‘magistrat’ meaning a civil officer in charge of administrating laws

Powers

Very powerful

Limited powers

Type of cases

Criminal cases, High priority cases, federal cases, constitutional cases

Lower level criminal cases, misdemeanor cases, or need to be assigned to certain cases

Serving time

Appointed for life

Full time: 8 years; Part-time: 4 years

Administrative power

Has more power

Has less powers

Appointment

Nominated by President; approved by House of Senate

Judges

Jurisdiction

Vast jurisdiction such capital cities or large areas

Limited jurisdiction such as district or province

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