Federal judges include those of the United States Supreme Court, circuit courts, and district courts. These highly coveted positions are brutally competitive. The basic knowledge of federal judgeships will give you a good starting point for approaching your education and career path.
While the United States constitution does not establish a criteria or requirements for federal judges, there are a few practical qualifications that are almost certainly expected. A law degree is a basic, unwritten rule for becoming a federal judge. As with all education focuses, the more you do within the legal and/or political profession while you are working toward your law degree, the better your chances of becoming known in the "right" legal and political circles. If you parlay your legal degree into a state judgeship, you are one more important step closer to the federal courts. Therefore, your record as a judge will be extremely important should you ever find yourself for consideration at the federal level. For example, your record on appeal reversals should be very low; otherwise, you may not make it through the vetting process.
Politics plays a huge role in federal judge appointments. While the President appoints federal judges, they must be confirmed by the Senate through a process that is structured by the United States Constitution. The entire process is dictated by law,however, it is extremely political in nature. A President is not likely to appoint those who do not share his or her political views. Judges and lawyers who are hopeful of being nominated for a federal position are more likely to be considered by an administration of the same political party. Equally as political, the Senate holds a great deal of power over federal judge appointments and can use a myriad of delaying tactics to stall or, ultimately, reject a nominee.
One of the many perks of being a federal judge is that it comes with a lifetime appointment. Federal judges may sit on the bench for as long as their will or their health allows. There are, however, rare instances where federal judges have been impeached. While it is highly unlikely, every federal judge must consider the fact that impeachment is a viable options should he or she not perform their duties in strict accordance with the law.
While becoming a federal judge is certainly a prestigious honor, it is not a simple process. A strong approach to law, politics, and government during higher education along with a careful mapping of your career at the state level will increase your odds of being one of the chosen few. Sometimes, you just have to be in the right place at the right time, under the right Presidency to find yourself suddenly noticed for the nomination.
Tips & Warnings
- Make connections. The more people you know at the local, state, and federal levels, the better.
- Market yourself. Once your credentials and work history are established, advocate for yourself.
- Continue your education at every opportunity. Nothing substitutes for an exemplory resume'
- Photo Credit image courtesy of ace-clipart.com
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