Different Types of Judges

Portrait of a judge
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How the federal court system tackles law-related issues is dependent upon the power granted to its constituents by the U.S. Constitution. A judge's role in the court system is to determine issues relating to the law, with or without a sitting jury. While the courts in our judicial system are of broad assembly, the types of judges can generally be pared down to five different types.


The lowest -ranking court in the federal hierarchy, the magistrate courts are part of the U.S. District Court system, meaning they are special courts established by Congress, and appointed by the president with the Senate's consent. Magistrate judges usually hold office for about 15 years, and handle only certain criminal and civil cases, depending on the consent of the parties.

U.S. District Court Judge

Ninety-four U.S. District Courts comprise the United States judicial system. Each state has at least one, but larger states require more, like California, which has four. Each district court has 2 to 28 judges. Because district courts are "courts of original jurisdiction," often called "trial courts," they are the place where most civil and criminal cases begin.

Read More: What Is the Difference Between Circuit Court & District Court?

Court of Appeals Judge

Unless a defendant is declared not guilty, almost anyone who alleges a discrepancy regarding the law over the facts in a case may take it to a United States circuit court of Appeals. Different types of Courts of Appeal include the United States Court of Military Appeals and the United States Court of Veterans Appeals. The United States currently has 13, with a judge presiding in each court.

U.S. Supreme Court Judge

The U.S. Supreme Court is the ultimate deciding body when it comes to the judicial system. It sits in Washington, D.C. and is made up of nine judges, known as justices, with one Chief Justice who presides over all the others. If a party is dissatisfied with the decision made by both the U.S. District Court and the Court of Appeals, he can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in a legal procedure called Petition for a Writ of Certiorari.

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