1

There are federal Judges and state Judges.

Judges have the power to decide issues that are filed in their courts. This power is determined by jurisdictions. Federal courts determine federal issues and state courts decide state issues. The U.S. Constitution determines the extent of federal jurisdiction. By way of the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution anything that is not covered in the U.S. Constitution is reserved for the states. How a Judge gets to be a Judge is governed by the federal or state law.

2

What are the levels of courts in the federal system?

The federal judicial system is divided into districts and circuits. Districts courts are the trial courts in the federal system. Circuit courts are the appellate courts in the federal system. Of course, the U.S. Supreme Court is the highest federal court. A district can be a whole or part of a state. In Illinois there are three districts, Northern District, Central District and Southern District. Illinois and other states are in the Seventh Circuit.

3

How do federal judges get thier positions?

Federal judges are appointed by the President of the United States subject to the ratification of the U.S. Congress. The Senators in a federal district or circuit make recommendations to the President. Federal judges are appointed for life and can be removed only by impeachment. Impeachment has been very rare in our history. Another category of federal jurist is the magistrate. Magistrates are appointed by the federal district judges in their jurisdiction for a term of 8 years. Magistrates have limited powers to determine certain aspects of a case. An example of the power of a magistrate in a criminal case is deciding if the accused must remain in custody or can remain out during the pendency of the case. This is called a detention hearing.

4

How do state judges get thier positions?

In Illinois, state judges are either circuit judges or associate judges. Circuit judges are elected in the circuit of their residence, i.e. the county of their residence. Some of the circuit judges run for election on a county wide ballot; some circuit judges run in a sub circuit(a part of) election. Circuit judges are elected for a term of years and are subject to a retention election. Associate judges are elected by the circuit judges in the circuit(county) of their residence. Associate judges are appointed for a term of years and are subject to reappointment at the end of their terms.

5

Political aspect of the appointment of judges.

This guide is intended to be a very general outline of how judges get to be judges. It is clear from this brief overview that politics is a factor in who gets to be a judge. On the federal level the president usually appoints lawyers from the party that he(and maybe someday soon she)represents. On the state level political parties are the source and provide support for lawyers who run for election. Historically, efforts to remove politics from the appointment or election process of judges have had questionable success.

6

With the exception of verdicts in jury trials, judges in criminal cases decide ALL of the important questions that determine the fate of the accussed.

In criminal cases a judge's power to decide the fate of an accused includes but is not limited to the following: Detention issues and bond amounts; Probably cause at preliminary hearings; Ruling on pre trial motions, including motions to dismiss, motions to quash arrest, motion to suppress evidence, motion to suppress identification, motions in limine; Rulings on objections during trial; Motions for directed findings or verdicts; Post trial motions, including motion for a new trial; To accept, reject or modify a plea agreement; SENTENCING, this is capitalized because it is a very important power of judges in criminal cases to determine if and how long a convicted person will lose their freedom; and Post conviction motions. Copyright 2013 Law Offices of Raymond G. Wigell, Ltd.