The positions of judge, magistrate judge, and magistrate vary in the types of court proceedings they oversee. Judges tend to work with criminal and corporate law, while magistrates usually preside over cases involving municipal law, pre-trial hearings, small claims cases, and misdemeanor trials. While they deal with different cases, they also share many of the same duties.
Judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates all preside over courtrooms and must be well aware of the laws which impact their cases. All must study case precedents, be aware of changes in precedents, and carefully review facts, legal briefs, arguments, testimonies, documents, and evidence brought before them, whether it is presented by an attorney or a citizen representing oneself, as is common in small claims cases. Regardless of the type of law they address, all must take the facts into account and preside in a fair and impartial manner to allow the facts of the case to determine the outcome. Thus, critical thinking skills, strong listening skills, and well-developed communication skills are essential in these positions, and well-developed administrative skills are also necessary, as judges, judge magistrates, and magistrates must complete detailed paperwork and oversee court clerks and others who work under them.
The majority of judges and magistrates begin as attorneys, either prosecution or defense, and have a variety of legal backgrounds. Attending law school is essential, and depending on the municipality they are either appointed or elected to the position by popular vote. Some go on to higher courts, either by election or appointment by governors or presidents. In the highest stages of advancement, a select few reach the supreme court of the nation.