How to Become a Juvenile Judge

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Juvenile Court judges are more common in the Court system today. There is an increasing need for Court involvement in issues relating to children who have been displaced, or have dysfunctional families. The increased awareness and development in learning about children's needs and interests has spurred a movement towards protecting children. The career of a juvenile judge can be rewarding, as you make decisions that help children get better care.

  • Attend an accredited law school and obtain your Juris Doctorate in law. See the ABA website listed in the resources for information about such law schools.

  • Become a law clerk to a judge, juvenile if possible, in the county and state in which you wish to become a juvenile judge. This step is optional, but having first hand court experience in the field and getting to know the judges will greatly enhance your resume for becoming a juvenile judge.

  • Take the bar exam and pass it in the state in which you wish to become a juvenile judge. You will then become admitted to practice law in that state.

  • Become a member of the state bar association in the state in which you will practice law and work towards becoming a judge. The process for being admitted to the bar is no easy road. You will have to fill out massive amounts of paperwork, and your background will be thoroughly investigated for character and regard for the law. This background check involves looking at your motor vehicle and court records, if any, getting letters from those who know your character in the community, and forms filled out by your previous employers, even for part time jobs you held.

  • Practice family law in the county in which you wish to become a judge. Deal specifically with permanency planning for children. You might wish to become a Best Interest Attorney representing children, for instance. Or, you could practice family law in general to gain experience working with families.

  • Establish an impeccable reputation in the community. Make sure that every move you make in your personal life reflects your respect and honor for the law. Don't get arrested for drunk driving, or get lots of speeding tickets, or go out and do crazy things that get public recognition.

  • Become well known in the community and with judges and other professionals dealing with children. Have people understand and value your desire to work with children and help them. Let people see your skills in working with issues such as child abuse and neglect and juvenile delinquency.

  • Teach college level courses in family and/or juvenile law. Although this step is optional, teaching college greatly increases your chance of being elected as a judge. This is something that will be looked at when determining your qualifications for the position.

  • Write articles about juvenile law, the family court system, child abuse and neglect, permanency planning and the like. Write a book about how to deal with dysfunctional families. Although this step is also optional, again, it greatly increases your chances of being seen as qualified for the position of juvenile judge.

  • Juvenile judges are elected positions. You will need to meet the requirements to become eligible to be elected. There are age requirements, years of residency in the state requirements, and requirements for the amount of time you have practiced law.

  • Get the specialized training each year you need to be able to be a juvenile judge. Look at the requirements of your state for such position. More information about this can be found on the NCJFCJ website, listed in the resources.

  • Join the NCJFCJ, and become actively involved in meetings and trainings. This will familiarize you with the issues facing juvenile judges, allow you to get to know juvenile judges and those in the field, and give you experience discussing the issues.

  • Run for election to become a juvenile judge in the county in which you have been practicing.

  • If the state and/or county does not have an established elected position for juvenile judge, you might be able to become a Circuit Court judge dealing with juvenile issues. In many states and counties, this is how the system is set up. You might deal more with juvenile delinquency rather than permanency planning and foster care, but you would still be considered to be working as a juvenile judge.

Tips & Warnings

  • Expect to maintain high standards for yourself in your personal life to become a juvenile judge, or any type of judge. People will look at your actions in your personal life when deciding whether you meet the test for becoming a juvenile judge.
  • If you plan to be a frequent breaker of the law, don't expect to be able to become a juvenile judge. Even if you only cited for traffic violations, this will impede on your character and be considered heavily.
  • If you plan to try to become a juvenile judge in a certain county, make sure that county actually has juvenile judges.

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