Magistrate vs Judge: How are they different from a legal perspective?

If you have ever been to a court or are a fan of a crime series, you must have heard these two names – Magistrate and Judge. They usually are heard when a crime is committed and someone is expecting to be convicted. But there’s a common fallacy of assuming that these legal personalities perform the same duties.

The main thing that segregates their responsibilities is the amount of authority they have against a title. But some other diminutive details will help distinguish magistrate vs judge. 

Magistrate vs Judge


A magistrate is a judicial officer, selected by the Judges of the court. Magistrates are selected to hear juvenile and family cases with a limited number within the court rules. They are generally attorneys with an extensive amount of experience in dealing with family disputes, having family law experience. After serving a good time in the family law field, they are then appointed as Magistrates by the Circuit Court of a country.

These Circuit courts appoint magistrates to take testimonies from the involved parties and determine the main problem of the disputes. They also have to submit their findings to the Judge to gain final approval.

What kind of cases can a Magistrate hear?

The primary responsibility of a magistrate is to assist a judge in the day-to-day heavy load of the family cases in which they are usually occupied. As being said that they handle very limited types of cases, these types include (but can vary from state to state):

  • Child Support, Alimony, custody issues, family issues, family property use.
  • Unconsented divorce (A situation where parties already have consented on the issue before appealing a divorce from the court)
  • Paternity
  • Children with assistance needs
  • Delinquency
  • Children with supervision needs
  • Modification of Custody
  • Civil Constructive Contempt regarding custody, alimony, visitation, use, support, or possession

Limitations of a Magistrate

However, a magistrate plays a vital role in determining the case issues, but they lack the ability to make decisions. They cannot issue a final verdict of a dispute but can propose recommendations knowing the theme of the case.

The recommendations are usually approved and signed by the Circuit Court Judge if neither party raise objections within the time limit.

What is a Judge’s role in court?

Many individuals have an idea that whenever a trial is observed, there are juries to decide who is going to win or lose. So when juries are involved, what is the role that a judge performs?

Judge’s Role in a Court Procedure 

The first role of the judge in court is to ensure that everybody in the court follows the court procedure. A Court Procedure is an important part of a legal system. It has been created to make sure that whoever comes to the court will get an impartial trial.

As a common individual, you must have seen in the TV shows or movies when court rulings and procedures come into play where a judge responds to a lawyer when he objects. This means that a judge is ruling on the requirements of evidence as a part of the procedure.

The jury is only permitted to see and hear the pieces of evidence so they would not rule unfairly towards or against the involved parties. However, many pieces of evidence have already been settled in the pre-trial sessions.

Judge’s authority regarding litigations

Oftentimes a trial has two obligations at one time. One over the ground facts of the case; what has been done, where, and why? Generally, the jury is responsible to find these answers, oftentimes the judge acts as an analyzer. 

The second obligation which lawyers usually argue is about the law. Lawyers from each party study and learn about the law, and see what legislatures have proposed in the law regarding the issue. These lawyers then argue how the law favors their clients.

When these facts regarding true legislations are highlighted in arguments, the judge will instruct the jury with the legal education to make the final and fair decision.

The Role of a Judge in a courtroom 

Regardless of the jurisdiction, judges have a range of responsibilities to act upon. When cases are heard in courts, a judge;

  • Controls hearings and case proceedings
  • Supervises the procedures and rulings
  • Provides legal direction to the jury
  • Sentences offenders
  • Verdicts on appeal hearings
  • Rules on legal proceedings

When there’s a civil case, the judges can produce judgments that require significant time other than their court hours. They also are responsible for attending conferences, delivering speeches, and providing training. High Court judges are often required to travel to Circuit Courts for performing different duties such as appointing magistrates.

Understanding the difference between magistrate vs judge will make you aware of whom you would face if you are expecting a court trial. To know how you can request a change in jury or judge, look at our articles – here.

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