What is the Difference Between a Justice and a Judge?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 30 November 2018
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Many people wonder about the designation of two officers that are authorized to administer specific legal actions in local, state, and federal jurisdictions. Those two officers are the judge and the justice. While the two terms are used interchangeably in many instances, there is often a difference between the roles. Some of the differences involve the background of the individual holding the title, the structure of the local jurisdiction, and the specific duties associated with each title.

In most parts of the world, a judge is an appointed official of the court who also happens to hold a degree in law. Judges tend to be associated with legal functions that have to do with the enforcement of the laws of the land. As such, a judge will preside at a legal proceeding, such as a criminal hearing or a civil court case. He or she will render a verdict based on the legal procedures and precedents currently in force in the jurisdiction, including the deliverance of sentences for prison terms if the situation merits this course of action.


In contrast, justices will perform a different function within the judicial system. Also sworn to uphold the laws of the land, this person does not necessarily have to be an attorney or have any formal legal training. Instead, he or she will be empowered by the jurisdiction to perform such functions as the witnessing of legal documents, the performance of civil unions and marriages, and other similar duties as defined by the jurisdiction. In some parts of the world, local justice officials are elected rather than appointed.

Since legal systems vary from one country to the next, there are no clear-cut differences between a justice and a judge in some jurisdictions. Depending on the location and local laws, a justice may preside at a court of law and a judge may be empowered to perform legal unions. When discussing the differences between these roles, it is often helpful to define the jurisdiction under consideration and look at the specific application of those two terms within that jurisdiction.


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