Judges are known for their black robes and gavels. They can dismiss cases, hold witnesses in contempt and declare a defendant guilty, but their duties extend well beyond these dramatic actions.
Judges' duties depend on their jurisdiction. Municipal court judges, administrative law judges, general trial court judges and appellate court judges all have different duties.
Before a Trial
Before a trial, judges hold pretrial hearings. They decide whether evidence is sufficient for a trial and, in criminal cases, sets a defendant's bail.
During a Trial
During a trial, the judge presides. A judge ensures that a trial follows established legal procedures, and when unusual circumstances arise, a judge interprets the law and finds a resolution.
Outside of a Trial
Outside of trial, judges research legal issues and publish their opinions. In some jurisdictions, they also manage the court's administrative and clerical staff. Appellate judges review cases to determine if verdicts should stand or go forward. In other instances, courts will determine the constitutionality of laws and decided on remedies when laws have been broken.y
Judges' salaries generally increase with their jurisdiction. In May 2012, the median annual wage for judges, magistrate judges and magistrates was $115,760, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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