PREMIUM LEGAL RESOURCES
ASK A LAWYER
Government official with authority to decide lawsuits brought before courts. Other judicial officers in the U.S. courts system are Supreme Court justices.
A public officer, lawfully appointed to decide litigated questions according to law. This, in its most extensive sense, includes all officers who are appointed to decide such questions and not only judges properly so called, but also justices of the peace and jurors, who are judges of the facts in issue. In a more limited sense, the term judge signifies an officer who is so named in his commission and who presides in some court.
Judges are appointed or elected in a variety of ways; in the United States they are appointed by the president by and with the consent of the senate; in some of the states they are appointed by the governor, the governor and senate or by the legislature. In the United States and some of the states, they hold their offices during good behaviour; in others, as in New York, during good behaviour or until they shall attain a certain age, and in others for a limited term of years.
Impartiality is the first duty of a judge; before he gives an opinion or sits in judgment in a cause he ought to be certain that he has no bias for or against either of the parties; and if he has any (the slightest) interest in the cause he is disqualified from sitting as judge and when he is aware of such interest he ought himself to refuse to sit on the case. It seems it is discretionary with him whether he will sit in a cause in which he has been of counsel. But the delicacy which characterizes the judges in this country, generally forbids their sitting in such a cause. He must not only be impartial, but he must follow and enforce the law, whether good or bad. He is bound to declare what the law is and not to make it; he is not an arbitrator, but an interpreter of the law. It is his duty to be patient in the investigation of the case, careful in considering it and firm in his judgment. He ought, according to Cicero, 'never to lose sight that he is a man and that he cannot exceed the power given him by his commission; that not only power, but public confidence has been given to him; that he ought always seriously to attend not to his wishes but to the requisitions of law, of justice and religion.'
While acting within the bounds of his jurisdiction, the judge is hot responsible for any error of judgment nor mistake he may commit as a judge.
A judge is not competent as a witness in a cause trying before him, for he can hardly be deemed capable of impartially deciding on the admissibility of his own testimony or of weighing it against that of another.