Difference Between Judge and Magistrate

Judge vs Magistrate

Difference between judge and magistrate mainly exists in the power each one of them exercises over the community, or in the system of justice. Judge and Magistrate are two terms that are often confused when it comes to their usage. It is generally believed that both of the terms refer to one and the same person. Actually, it is not so. A judge is different from a magistrate in more than one aspect. It is indeed true that both of them differ in their powers. As a matter of fact, a judge is bestowed with more powers than a magistrate. This is an important difference between the two terms. We will see what other differences they show between themselves.

Who is a Judge?

A judge is a person with a law degree who has experience in working as a lawyer. A judge also has a lot of power in taking decisions that concern legal matters. When it comes to cases, a judge is left to handle big and complex cases. The cases handled by a judge are usually not simple in nature. They also handle large cases in the sense that they can run for several years. The administrative powers of a judge are more when compared to those of a magistrate. The domain in which a judge works is almost unlimited and large. In some countries such as the US, judges appoint magistrates.

A judge enjoys even a better and an expansive jurisdiction. In other words, the jurisdiction of a judge falls within a capital city or a very large area. Sometimes, the jurisdiction of a judge can cover the entire country too.

Difference Between Judge and Magistrate

If we look at the root of the word judge, the word judge is derived from the French word ‘juger’ meaning to form an opinion on something. In Old French, the verb ‘jugier’ meant ‘to judge.’ So, the judge finally became a person who spells the final opinion.

Who is a Magistrate?

Usually, a magistrate is a state official who takes decisions in legal cases just like a judge, though he does not have as much power as a judge. It is important to know that the powers given to a magistrate are akin to those given to an administrator. This is why a magistrate handles small and minor cases only. The law enforcement powers exercised by a magistrate are very much limited in number and nature when compared to the law enforcement powers exercised by a judge.

It is interesting to note that a magistrate is appointed by a judge in a few countries. This only means that a judge has the authority to appoint even a magistrate. Thus, the domain in which a magistrate works is normally limited.

The US Federal Court System is one of the very well organized court systems in the world, in the sense that magistrates are directly appointed by the life-term judges. This system has received wide appreciation from the other court systems in the rest of the world.

When it comes to jurisdiction, a magistrate takes care of a limited jurisdiction only. This is one of the most important differences between a judge and a magistrate. In other words, it can be said that the jurisdiction of magistrate falls within the state, province, or a district or a very small area for that matter.

 Judge vs Magistrate

It is interesting to note that the word magistrate is derived from the Middle English word ‘magistrat.’ A magistrate is more or less a civil officer. He has the power that is granted to administrative personnel. Hence, he is in charge of administrative laws.

Though this is the general acceptance of the title magistrate, different countries have different ideas of a magistrate. For example, in the UK, a magistrate is equal to a justice of peace. However, that position also is a position with less power just as the original meaning of the term magistrate. Even in countries such as Australia and New Zealand, magistrate is a person with less administrative and legal powers. However, in countries such as Switzerland and Mexico, a magistrate is a superior legal officer.

What is the difference between Judge and Magistrate?

• Level of Power:

• Judge is a legal officer who takes decisions in a court of law.

• Magistrate also takes decisions in a court of law. However, he has less power than a judge.

• In some countries, even a magistrate is appointed by a judge.

• Educational Background:

• Judge is always an officer with a law degree.

• Magistrate does not need to have a degree in law in every country.

• Types of Cases:

• Judge handles complex cases.

• Magistrate handles minor cases.

• Jurisdiction:

• Judge has a better and expansive jurisdiction:

• Magistrate has a smaller jurisdiction than a judge.

• Root:

• Judge comes from the French word juger.

• Magistrate comes from the Middle English word magistrat.

• Acceptance:

• A judge does not have different job descriptions in different countries.

• A magistrate has different job descriptions in different countries. Though most countries accept magistrate as a lower level position in the justice system, countries such as Switzerland and Mexico accept magistrate as a high-level position.

These are the differences between the two words, namely, judge and magistrate.


Images Courtesy: Judge Hugh Denis Macrossan and A French Magistrate of Requests via Wikicommons (Public Domain)