Criminal Justice Paper on Definition and Functions of a Judge

Criminal Justice

Definition and Functions of a Judge

A judge represents a person who is truly impartial, deciding each case as on its merits as they appear to him/her following the reason for deciding as required by the law.

Judges are obliged to undertake numerous workloads on behaving of the state government and their citizens. “The judge’s primary duty is to ensure that justice is served; judges are responsible for protecting both the rights of the accused and the interests of the public” Mason, 2008). The criminal trial judge must be a neutral party who is responsible for helping determine whether the prosecution has established the guilt of the accused as required by the law. Cicchini, (2012) argues, “Jury trials judges also instruct the jury at the conclusions of the trials about their duties in determining the guilt of the defendant.”

State judges’ resolves private economic disagreements like contract and tort disputes, as well as personal disputes such as divorce and child custody cases. Moreover, they also mediate public disagreements including school funding claims, procedures for criminal defendants, and other state constitutional issues.

Since court functions are invested with specific political, legal and constitutional powers, judges navigates a complex legal environment that includes federal courts and federal law, state constitutional and statutory restrictions, mandates , and sometimes even international law. Here, judges make and enforce their decisions while respecting other political institutions and competing bodies of law, using the specific and limited powers at their disposal (Lattimer, 2003).

The changing roles of judges is most noticeable in the exercise of juvenile and family court responsibilities where judges, as a matter of law, have a continuing obligation to oversee the execution of their orders and engage in executive rather than judicial functions. This post-adjudication function may be more important and time-consuming than adjudication and may occasionally go beyond mere oversight to mandating provision of services by executive branch agencies or administering social service and detention programs that are under court aegis.

“The administrative, protective, and rehabilitative roles go beyond the family area” (Graver, 2015). They encompass court oversight of guardians and protection of persons who are being committed or have been committed for reasons of mental disability or incompetence, and they extend into the criminal area, particularly in diversion programs and in sentencing. While legislators prefer a robotic, nondiscretionary form of sentencing, judges fight to retain the sentencing discretion because they have to balance the common good against the fate of an individual. Although very few criminal defendants go to trial, judges sentence everyone convicted of a crime, so sentencing is arguably the most important judicial function.


Vast majority of the state court judges are required to have a law degree and to have been admitted to the state bar prior to their election or appointment, although a law degree is not required for judicial election or appointments in lower courts in several states. According to Lattimer (2003), “The methods of selecting state-level trial and appellate judges vary widely from state to state although the federal system is straightforward. The president appoints the federal judges, who are later confirmed by the Senate. They are appointed for life and are replaced only by impeachment or when they are not able to perform their judicial duties. States-level court judges are elected through their partisan or nonpartisan elections; potential judges campaign for their positions and are guaranteed to be in office until the next election. The remaining states use some form of gubernatorial or legislative appointment.


Interactions with other Professions

The efficient management of cases involves not only individual judges, but also president of courts and other competent authorities. In order to reach a common ground in the interpretation of the law, the president of a court may, for example, organize a meeting to enable judges to exchange opinions on particular legal subjects.

Lawyers are the most regular and most expert critics of judges’ work, a role that enhances the importance of their esteem to judges. They are the primary readers of judicial opinions and judges perceive them as the most skillful evaluators of opinions. For that reason, lawyers stand alongside the parties to cases as the primary audiences for whom opinions are written. Thus, lawyers who frequently appear in a court are a key audience for judges within the legal profession as a whole. To the extent they share certain values, their presence and interactions with judges may sway judges towards the support of those values.

“The bailiff is the court officer responsible for maintaining order in the courtroom and is charged with supervising and managing the jurors in the jury trial” (Hoffmeister, 2014). The bailiff is usually an armed law enforcement officer who is assigned to the courtroom to assist with the operation of the court by calling witnesses, announcing the judge’s entry into the courtroom, protecting the other courtroom workgroup actors, and preventing the escape of the alleged defendant.

Cicchini, (2012) argues, “Courtroom clerks are essential especially during the selection process of the jury.” “The clerk maintains a list of the potential jurors using, for example, lists of registered voters or licensed drivers or a combination of the two” (Hogan, 2006). When a case is set for trial by jury, the clerk uses this list to provide the court with names of potential jurors representing a fair cross-section of the community. The judges utilize this information to determine the best candidates.


It is understandable that the lay and professional public, and the judges themselves are anxious to insist that, when judges decide whether their countries may ban abortion, or authorize their police to terrorize terrorists, or prevent the publication of racially inflammatory or insensitive literature, these judges are not simply imposing their personal moral convictions, that may be idiosyncratic, in the multitude of their fellow citizens. It seems undemocratic that such fundamental issues should be decided by a small group of appointed officials who cannot be turned out of the office by the popular will. Moreover, judges disagree about political morality among themselves. “It also seems unfair that important decisions should turn on which panel of judges was sitting at the time, particularly since judicial appointments are often matters of politics and even luck, rather than the solemn assessment of merit” (Lattimer, 2003). Responsible judges indicate that some judges are relying on something else: the morality of the community as a whole, for instance, or the principles embedded in the nation’s history.

For a fair trial, it is necessary that judges in the courtrooms remain independent and impartial. In practice, independence is connected with various aspects of the work of a judge. First, it concerns the way that judges are recruited, nominated and promoted. Second, it is related to the decision-making process of as well as the role of the public prosecutor in criminal proceedings. In the court proceedings, judges should act freely without any interference from external parties, such as political influences of influences from the superiors within a judicial organization to “steer” a court decision in a certain direction. “Judges should be objective and neural decision makers” (Graver, 2015). Their positions and the roles in the courts must be guaranteed by the law. Moreover, independence can be brought in relation to the ethical behavior of judges and the possibility for judges to combine their main function with other professional functions in the society. Codes of conduct can help judges to promote the value of independence and also to prevent unethical behaviors. Rules on the supplementary functions of judges are critical to elaborate on the professional functions needed in judges. This cover situations judges should hand over a case to another judge or a panel of judges of avoiding “conflict of interest.”

Openness and transparency are one of the means to avoid situations of corruption in the courts or to reduce any perceived incidence of corruption. In a situation where courts are not properly supervised and where there is no information available regarding court performance, corruption may occur. Especially in circumstances where the outcome of court decisions are unpredictable, not based on a rational decision-making process and court performance is poor, it might be attractive for people to influence court proceedings in a certain direction by making use of corruption. Therefore, independence is an important value (Lattimer, 2003).


In the modern society, it is necessary for the citizens to have access to the relevant performance information of the court and have a good impression of how the courts are run. Courts do not operate in isolation but are part of society. That is why it is important that the value of independence is added with accountability. Judges and the courts are accountable for their outcomes, and this implies that openness and transparency must be promoted as well.


Cicchini, M. D. (2012). Tried and convicted: How police, prosecutors, and judges destroy our Constitutional rights. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publisher

Graver, H. P. (2015). Judges against Justice: On judges when the rule of law is under attack.

Hoffmeister, T. (2014). Social Media in the Courtroom: A new era of criminal justice? Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.

Hogan, S. O. (2006). The judicial branch of state government: People, process, and politics. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO.

Lattimer, M. (2003). Justice for crimes against humanity. Oxford [u.a.: Hart.

Mason, M. (2008). Courtroom interpreting. Lanham: University Press of America.