I learned quite a lot from the presentation from the judge and magistrate. I knew judges and so forth held a bunch of power, but hearing it from them first-hand on what exactly they hold the power to do solidified this idea in my head even more. Overall, not only are judges and magistrates leaders in the eyes of the people, but also the criminals in which they determine the fates of. I know what you’re thinking, I just pointed out the obvious. But what I really mean is that they are leaders of everyone in a community, which means they absolutely must rule with confidence, absolutely zero bias, without dwelling on their decisions after.
“You must learn how to make a decision and move on.” said Karen, a magistrate of Bremer County. This quote really made a lot of sense to me and proved to me just how strong an individual has to be in order to be a judge or magistrate. It’s true, you need to be able to move on. You are constantly deciding other human’s fates, whether that be short-term or long-term, which means dwelling on and second-guessing your decisions will eat you alive. You need to follow your gut and follow the evidence that has been put in front of you. These judges deal with cases from as small as parking tickets all the way to serious felonies, which means there is absolutely no time to second-guess your decisions.
Along with this, I also learned that there are different types of judges. For example, a magistrate is the lowest level a judge can be. Magistrates can only send people to jail for up to 30 days. They mostly are involved with smaller crimes such as parking tickets and performing courtroom weddings. However, interestingly enough, they are allowed to issue search warrants and even hear court appearances for the most severest of crimes, such as terrorism, murder, armed robbery, etc. This showed me that although they are on the bottom of the totem-pole, magistrates still hold a lot of power.
The next level of judge is a district-associate judge. This type of judge is in the middle between a magistrate and a district-court judge. These judges mostly deal with misdemeanors, OWI’s, marijuana possession cases, adoptions, etc. Another major difference between a district-associate judge and a magistrate is that they are allowed to send people to prison for up to five years. As you can see, having the ability to send someone away for that long, whether they deserve or not, means you truly have to be mature, confident, fair, and a community of supporters behind you.
Lastly, a district-court judge is like “a queen in chess, they can do anything”. With that said, they truly hold the greatest amount of power as they take the murder cases, divorces, felonies, and everything else. They also are able to hand out life sentences.
Perhaps the most interesting information I took away from the presentation was that being a judge, or magistrate, spans far out the courtroom. In fact,you are a leader and even on call for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. What I mean when I say “spans far outside the courtroom” is that, since you hold so much power, you can’t do things that normal adults do. For example, you are not able to show support towards a political party. This means absolutely no politically-charged bumper stickers, no political yard signs, and no attending your local caucuses. You are an icon in the community, especially in a smaller town like Waverley, which means you have to remain neutral and fair at all times.
To touch on the topic of bias again, remaining unbiased means you cannot do the most natural of reactions. For example, whether you agree with or believe a defendant or not, you absolutely cannot say anything or show anything that has the potential to sway a case one way or another. This includes no facial expressions and other physical actions such as shaking your head, rolling your eyes, etc. To be honest, this sounds very difficult. If I know someone is lying to straight to my face, it would be very difficult for me to maintain my composure in the courtroom. Again, this further proves just how strong an individual has to be in order to be any level of judge.
Ultimately, unlike other jobs, being a judge is a lifestyle. Once you earn that role or title, your life is different. You are a leader of the people which means that you have to act like that 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. With that said, not everyone is fit to be a judge, in fact, being a judge takes a special type of person. It takes someone with the perfect mixture of power, confidence, strength, maturity, and leadership.