The Courts – Powers of the Judge
Most individuals feel strongly about the roles of the magistrates and the judges in the system of criminal justice particularly when it is time for sentencing. The role of judges in criminal jurisdiction is often critical and challenging. Criminal cases usually come to courts when decisions for prosecutions have already been made for the alleged crime by the Crown Prosecution Service (Bureau of Labor Statistics & U.S. Department of Labor, 2010)
. Judges such as the circuit judges, the district judges and the High Court judges usually hear the evidence and make decisions according to the available evidence presented to them. Understanding the powers of the judge in courts is therefore important in understanding how the criminal justice system works for the service of all the citizens in a fair manner. While the powers of the judges in criminal court system have been established, the question remains: have these powers of the judges been able to provide for justice of the offenders and the offended in the criminal court system? This paper outlines the powers of the judge in criminal justice system and attempts to inform on the relationship of the judges with other personalities in criminal jurisdiction to bring about justice in case trials and sentencing.
The powers and jurisdictions of judges determine their duties. In general, the judges oversee all the legal procedures in courts and apply the law. They also preside over criminal cases including traffic offenses and huge corporation cases such as enterprise crimes. They do this in the required manner so as to ensure that hearing and trials are conducted in a fair manner to safeguard the legal rights deserved by all parties. The judges preside over hearing and trials as the attorneys represent the clients (Bureau of Labor Statistics & U.S. Department of Labor, 2010). They then rule on the evidence admissibility as well as the method to be used in conducting testimonies. The judges may also take part in solving disputes between the attorneys and they ensure that required procedures and rules are stringently followed and determine how trials may proceed in case the standard procedures have not been followed.
Judges have the power incarcerate individuals who have been convicted of criminal offenses. The decision to incarcerate comes after the judge has deemed the offense to be serious enough to deserve incarceration. However, the decision to imprison is not the only action they can take after listening to evidence: the judges have the power to order for community punishment instead of incarceration. The judges can also put the criminals under control orders and restrict their activities or movements. The judges first consider the benefits of the punishment to the offender in the avoidance of re-offending. In general, the judge is empowered to conduct impartial and fair hearing to ensure that all the facts have been elicited fully before punishment is declared on the offenders (Bureau of Labor Statistics & U.S. Department of Labor, 2010). This means that even if the judge has the authority to incarcerate, pragmatic evidence has to be considered before taking any decisions.
It is the authority of the judges to determine the innocence and guilt in criminal cases. The judges have the responsibility to instruct the juries on the laws applicable to the cases presented, to direct the juries in the process of deducing the facts from the presented evidence and also to hear the verdicts of the juries. The judges decide the cases only when the law does not provide for jury trials or in circumstances where the parties waive their rights to juries. In these situations, the judges will determine the guilt in cases and also impose the sentence on the crime committed (Bureau of Labor Statistics & U.S. Department of Labor, 2010). The judge may award relief like compensations for some damages in civil cases.
Judges in the general trial courts in both the State and Federal court system have the authority to oversee any kind of cases in their system. The judges often try various civil cases which transcend lower courts jurisdiction as well as all the cases which involve felony offenses. While the State and Federal appellate court judges are few in their numbers, they have the authority to overrule various decisions which are made by the administrative law judges or trial court judges. The appellate court judges may overrule court decisions in case they establish that legal mistakes were committed during case decisions. They may also overrule the decisions in case the legal precedents do not fully support the lower court judgments. Basically, the appellate court judges have authority over a few cases and they rarely have any direct contact with the people bringing cases or those on trial, the litigants. The appellate court judges mainly base their entire decisions on the records of the lower court as well as on the oral and written arguments of the lawyers (Bureau of Labor Statistics & U.S. Department of Labor, 2010).
Majority of State court judges only hear specific types of cases. State court judges have various titles including the county court judges, the municipal court judges, the justice of the peace and the magistrates. These judges involve themselves in dealing with cases involving traffic violations, small claims, misdemeanors as well as pretrial hearings. In some state however, the State court judges perform functions such as handling cases which involve probate, domestic relations, contracts as well as other law-selected areas (Bureau of Labor Statistics & U.S. Department of Labor, 2010).
The administrative law judges are also known as the adjudicators or the hearing officers. The administrative judges moistly employed by various government agencies to devise determinations for a number of administrative agencies. The judges have the power to make decisions on the compliance with various economic regulatory guidelines, employment discrimination, and enforcement of safety and health regulations, environmental protection and eligibility of persons for various compensation benefits for workers and other Social Securities (Bureau of Labor Statistics & U.S. Department of Labor, 2010).
The High Court judges under criminal jurisdiction have the authority to hear most sensitive and serious cases such as murder in the Crown Court. Some of the High Court judges have the authority to sit together with the Appeal Court judges in the Court of Appeal, the Criminal Division. The High Court Judges can sit in the Bench Division of the Queen in England however, in most states including the United States, the High Court judges deal with more sensitive and serious cases of criminal offenses (Bureau of Labor Statistics & U.S. Department of Labor, 2010).
Some states have Circuit judges who solely deal with family, civil as well as criminal works. They can at times divide their responsibilities and times and serve the three functions. Majority of Crown Court cases are mainly heard exclusively by the Circuit judges but less complex and less serious cases can be heard by fee-paid Recorders. The fee-paid recorders are part-time judges who are at their first stage in their judicial ladder to be appointed into the bench. While the recorders’ jurisdiction is almost similar to the circuit judges, the recorders handle less serious and less complex cases which come before the court (Bureau of Labor Statistics & U.S. Department of Labor, 2010).
In general, the judges have authorities which are given to them to perform their duties of in the criminal court system. These powers however vary depending on the type of judges or the titles they hold. Among the most common powers of the judge is the presiding over a range of trials brought before the court and the listening or hearing the attorneys represent their various clients. Through the evidence, the judges make ruling over the cases ensuring that justice is maintained both to the offender and the offended.
Bureau of Labor Statistics & U.S. Department of Labor (2010). Judges, Magistrates, and Other Judicial Workers. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Retrieved July 30, 2010 from, http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos272.htm