How to Become a Magistrate

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The United States legal system is a very important governmental sector that makes sure all people and property are safe. There are many officials to ensure the effective function of the complex legal system. Magistrates are judicial officers in lower court jurisdictions that deal with misdemeanors and pretrial hearings for serious crimes.


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What does a magistrate do?

Magistrates supervise legal processes in courts and apply aspects of the law. They often have limited law enforcement and administration power, but they are capable of dealing with civil and criminal cases. They conduct many different judicial proceedings, review arrests, and issue warrants. They are often concerned with accelerating the completion of proceedings in United States district courts. They must always ensure order in the courtroom and that hearings are conducted on a fair basis. Federal district judges in a certain court often appoint federal magistrate judges. Sometimes state court magistrates only hear certain types of cases such as misdemeanors, traffic violations, small claims cases, and pretrial hearings. Some states allow magistrates to handle cases involving probate, domestic relations, contracts, and other selected law areas. Magistrates typically serve 8 years if they are full-time and 4 years if they are part-time. They may be reappointed when their time is coming to an end.

What kind of training does a magistrate need?

Magistrates need at least a bachelor degree and work experience. Most have law degrees and many have started out as lawyers. It is essential for magistrates to have a thorough understanding of the law and legal matters. All states require new magistrates to complete some form of orientation. Most magistrates are also usually required to complete continuing education courses throughout their time serving on the bench.

What are the prospects for a career as a magistrate?

Employment of magistrates is expected to grow slower than average for all professions, increasing 4% from 2006 to 2016 (1). The continued need to deal with crime and disputes will drive job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be fair with competition for positions due to the prestige related to serving on the bench. Majority of job openings will stem from the need to replace magistrates who retire or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do magistrates make?

As of October 2009, magistrates with 1 to 4 years experience earned average annual salaries between $41,551 and $82,500. Those with 5 to 9 years experience earned average annual salaries between $39,305 and $75,285 (2).

A career as a magistrate is a great choice for people who are have a strong interest in the law. Magistrates must have political and public support because most of them are elected or appointed. Reliability, integrity, maturity, and ability to make fair judgments are essential characteristics of magistrates. Magistrates must also have excellent organizational and communication skills. Active listening, strong critical thinking, and good time management are also desirable qualities.

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