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A judge, or arbiter of justice, is a lead official who presides over a court of law, either alone or as 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 like an umpire in a game and conducts the trial impartially and in an open court. The judge hears all the witnesses and any other evidence presented by the parties of the case, assesses the credibility of the parties, and then issues a ruling on the matter at hand based on his or her interpretation of the law and his or her own personal judgement. In some jurisdictions, the judge's powers may be shared with a jury, although this practice is starting to be phased out in some regions.

Symbols of office

A variety of traditions have become associated with the occupation.

In many parts of the world, judges wear long robes (usually in black or red) and sit on an elevated platform during trials (known as the bench).

In some countries, especially in the Commonwealth of Nations, judges sometimes wear wigs. The long wig often associated with judges is now reserved for ceremonial occasions, although it was part of the standard attire in previous centuries. A short wig resembling but not identical to a barrister's wig would be worn in court. This tradition, however, is being phased out in Britain in non-criminal courts.

American judges frequently wear black robes. American judges have ceremonial gavels, although American judges have court deputies or bailiffs and "contempt of court" power as their main devices to maintain decorum in the courtroom. However, in some Western states, like Californiamarker, judges did not always wear robes and instead wore everyday clothing. Today, some members of state supreme courts, such as the Maryland Court of Appealsmarker wear distinct dress.

In Italymarker both judges and lawyers wear particular black robes.

In the People's Republic of Chinamarker, judges wore regular street clothes until 1984, when they began to wear military-style uniforms, which were intended to demonstrate authority. These uniforms were replaced in 2000 by black robes similar to those worn in the rest of the world.

In Omanmarker, the judge wears a long stripe (Red, Green and White), while the attorneys wear the black gown.

Titles and forms of address


In Australia since 2007 magistrates and judges of all jurisdictions including the High Court of Australiamarker are now referred to as "Your Honour" or "His Honour Mr Justice Forename Surname" and a concerted effort is being made by state law societies and bar associations to petition parliament for the removal of wigs and gowns as they are considered to be a throwback to 19th century Britain. It has been noted in a study done by the Queensland law society in 2007 that 76% of the Australian general public believe that the antiquated legal garb seems to make barristers and Judges out of touch with modern society.


In Brazilmarker, judges are simply called "juiz" or "juíza" and traditionally addressed to as "Vossa Excelência"; judges sitting in the higher tribunals (Supremo Tribunal Federal, Superior Tribunal de Justiça, Tribunal Superior do Trabalho and Tribunal Superior Eleitoral) are called "ministro" or "ministra" and also referred to as "Vossa Excelência".

European Union


In Francemarker, the presiding judge of a court is addressed to as "Mr./Mrs. President" (Monsieur le président/Madame le président).


In Germanymarker as "Mr./Mrs. Chairman (Herr Vorsitzender/Frau Vorsitzende).


In Italymarker the presiding judge of a court is addressed as well to as "Mr./Mrs. President" ("Signor presidente della corte").

United Kingdom

England and Wales
In the Courts of England and Wales (and much of the Commonwealth) judges of the higher courts are addressed as "My Lord" or "My Lady" and referred to as "Your Lordship" or "Your Ladyship". Circuit Judges and Recorders are addressed as "Your Honour" and district judges and tribunal judges are addressed as "Sir/Madam".

Lay magistrates are still addressed as "Your Worship" in Britain, South Africa and Canada, mainly by solicitors, but this practice in other Commonwealth countries is nearly obsolete.

Masters of the High Court are addressed as "Master". When a judge of the High Court who is not present is being referred to they are described as "Mr./Mrs. Justice N" (written N J). In the Supreme Court of the United Kingdommarker, judges are called Justices.

In the Courts of Scotland judges in the Court of Sessionmarker, High Court of Justiciarymarker and Sheriff Courts are all addressed as "My Lord" or "My Lady" and referred to as "Your Lordship" or "Your Ladyship".

Justices of the Peace in Justice of the Peace Courts are addressed and referred to as "Your Honour".


In Indiamarker, judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts are addressed as 'Your Lordship'/'My Lord' and 'Your Ladyship'/'My Lady', a tradition directly attributable to England. However, a resolution of the Bar Council of India calls upon lawyers not to address the judges as Lords/Ladies, they having nothing to with nobility in a constitutional democracy. Lawyers however continue to so address judges - partly out of entrenched habit and partly out of fear of falling in disfavour with them. Subordinate court judges (District, Magistrate, Munsif and Sub-judges) are addressed as 'Your Honour'.

New Zealand

In New Zealandmarker, judges of the High Court and above are referred to as "His/Her Honour Justice Surname" in speech, and "Surname J" in writing. Judges of the District Court and the other statutory courts are referred to as "His/Her Honour Judge Surname" in speech, and "Surname DCJ" or "Judge Surname" in writing. The "Mr" of the title "Mr Justice" was dropped on the appointment of Cartwright J to the High Court. In Court, all judges are addressed as "Your Honour", or "Sir/Madam".


In Malaysiamarker, judges of the subordinate courts are addressed as "Tuan" or "Puan" (Sir or Madam), while judges of the superior courts are addressed as "Yang Arif" (lit. "Learned One") or My Lord/Lady and Your Lordship/Ladyship if the proceedings, as they generally are in the superior courts, are in English.


In Spainmarker, Magistrates of the Supreme Court, Magistrates and Judges are addressed to as "Your Lordship" (Su Señoría); however, in formal occasions, Magistrates of the Supreme Court are addressed to as "Your Right Honorable Lordship" (Vuestra Señoría Excelentísima or Excelentísimo Señor/Excelentísima Señora); in those solemn occasions, Magistrates of lower Courts are addressed as "Your Honorable Lordship" (Vuestra Señoría Ilustrísima or Ilustrísimo Señor/Ilustrísima Señora); simple Judges are always called "Your Lordship".

Sri Lanka

In Sri Lankamarker, judges of all courts are addressed as "Your Honour", however the Chief Justice is addressed as "Your Lordship". Judges of the Supreme Court and the Appeal Court receives the title "The Honourable".

United States

An American judge talking to a lawyer.
In the United Statesmarker, a judge is addressed as "Your Honor" or "Judge" when presiding over the court. The judges of the Supreme Court of the United Statesmarker, and the judges of the supreme courts of several U.S. states and other countries are called "justices" or "judges of the peace".

The justices of the supreme courts usually hold higher offices than the justice of the peace, a judge who holds police court in some jurisdictions and who typically tries small claims and misdemeanors. However, the state of New Yorkmarker inverts the usual order, with the Supreme Court of the State of New York being the lowest trial court of general jurisdiction, and the Court of Appeals being the highest court. This is a historical artifact from when the superior trial court in common law jurisdictions was called the "supreme court." Consequently, New York trial judges are called "justices", while the judges on the Court of Appeals are "judges". New York judges who deal with guardianships, trusts and estates are known as "surrogates".

A senior judge, in U.S. practice, is a retired judge who handles selected cases for a governmental entity while in retirement, on a part-time basis.

Subordinate or inferior jurisdiction judges in U.S. legal practice are sometimes called magistrates, although in the federal court of the United States, they are called magistrate judges. Subordinate judges in U.S. legal practice appointed on a case-by-case basis, particularly in cases where a great deal of detailed and tedious evidence must be reviewed, are often called "masters" or "special masters" and have authority in a particular case often determined on a case by case basis.

Judges of courts of specialized jurisdiction (such as bankruptcy courts or juvenile courts) were sometimes known officially as "referees," but the use of this title is in decline. Judges sitting in courts of equity in common law systems (such as judges in the equity courts of Delawaremarker) are called "Chancellors".

Individuals with judicial responsibilities who report to an executive branch official, rather than being a part of the judiciary, are often called "administrative law judges" in U.S. practice and commonly make initial determinations regarding matters such as eligibility for government benefits, regulatory matters, and immigration determinations.

Judges who derive their authority from a contractual agreement of the parties to a dispute, rather than a governmental body are called arbitrators, and typically do not receive the honorific forms of address, and do not have the symbolic trappings, of a publicly appointed judge.

Biblical Judges

The Biblical Book of Judges revolves around a succession of leaders who were known as "Judges" (Hebrew shoftim שופטים) but who - aside from their judicial function - were also tribal war leaders, leading in war against threatening enemies. The same word is, however, used in contemporary Israelmarker to denote judges whose function and authority is similar to that in other modern countries.

See also


  1. http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/B/BRITAIN_JUDGES_WIGS?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

External links


M.E.D.E.L European association of judges and public prosecutors.

  • CEPEJ European commission for the efficiency of justice.
  • CCJE European consultative council of judges.

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