A judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone or as a part of a panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, discipline, and training of judges vary widely across different jurisdictions. The judge is supposed to conduct the trial impartially and, typically, in an open court. The judge hears all the witnesses and any other evidence presented by the barristers or solicitors of the case, assesses the credibility and arguments of the parties, and then issues a ruling on the matter at hand based on their interpretation of the law and their own personal judgment. In some jurisdictions, the judge's powers may be shared with a jury. In inquisitorial systems of criminal investigation, a judge might also be an examining magistrate. The presiding judge ensures that all court proceedings are lawful and orderly.
The ultimate task of a judge is to settle a legal dispute in a final and public manner, and thus affirm the rule of law. Judges exercise significant governmental power. They can order police, military or judicial officials to execute searches, arrests, imprisonments, garnishments, distrainments, seizures, deportations and similar actions. However, judges also supervise that trial procedures are followed, in order to ensure consistency and impartiality and avoid arbitrariness. The powers of a judge are checked by higher courts such as appeals courts and supreme courts.
Before the trial, a pre-trial investigation collecting the facts has been conducted by police officials, such as police officers and coroners, prosecutors or public procurators. The court usually has three main legally trained court officials: the judge, the prosecutor and the defence attorney. The role of a judge varies between legal systems. In an adversarial system (common law), as in effect in the U.S. and England, the judge functions as an impartial referee, mainly ensuring correct procedure, while the prosecution and the defense present their case to a jury, often selected from common citizens. The main factfinder is the jury, and the judge will then finalize sentencing. Nevertheless, in smaller cases judges can issue summary judgments without proceeding to a jury trial. In an inquisitorial system (civil law), as in effect in continental Europe, there is no jury and the main factfinder is the judge, who will do the presiding, judging and sentencing on his own.
Judges must be able to research and process extensive lengths of documents, witness testimonies, and other case material, understand complex cases and possess a thorough understanding of the law and legal procedure, which requires excellent skills in logical reasoning, analysis and decision-making. Excellent writing skills are also a necessity, given the finality and authority of the documents written. Judges work with people all the time; by the nature of the job, good dispute resolution and interpersonal skills are a necessity. Judges are required to have good moral character, i.e. there must be no history of crime.
- Which trait should a judge live by ?
- What can the judge not do?
- What should the judge consider before giving a verdict?
- How should the judge handle any trial?
- What skills are imperative for a judge to be very good at?
- Who is an effective judge?