The trial court judge – general overview: Judges exist at all different levels of the judiciary (e.g., State Court, Federal Court, Court of Appeals, State Supreme Court, Supreme Court of the United States). Here, we will focus on judges in criminal trial court at the local level – State trial court and Federal trial court.
Like all of our blogs, this blog is intended for informational purposes only and not as a substitute for the advice and counsel of a criminal defense attorney.
What is a Trial Court Judge
A trial court judge is member of the judicial branch of government. They are officers of the court. They were typically practicing attorneys prior to taking the bench. They may or may not have direct experience with the types of proceedings and subject matter that they preside over.
What is the Judge’s Role in State Criminal Proceedings?
A state criminal court judge’s role varies somewhat depending upon whether they are presiding over Superior court or District Court. We have written a detailed blog regarding District Court Judges, which you can find here. Generally, a criminal trial judge in state court will preside over bond hearings, pre-trial motions, criminal trials, sentencing, etc.
How is a State Trial Court Judge Seated?
In state court in North Carolina, a judge is an elected official. Candidates run a judicial campaign in order to cultivate support from the public. Currently, candidates run along party lines (e.g., Democrat, Republican, etc.) At this level, judicial elections are county-wide. For example, Mecklenburg County residents will vote for Mecklenburg County judges. Once voted into office by the general public, these judges take their seat for four-year terms for District Court Judges, and Eight-year Terms for Superior Court Judges. They may run for re-election once their term has expired. In state court in South Carolina, judges are appointed.
Federal criminal judges preside over criminal trials, detention hearings, supervised release violation hearings, sentencing hearings etc. Federal judges are appointed to the bench by the sitting president of the United States. These judges are appointed for life. They may be impeached, but absent extraordinary circumstances, they will be allowed to maintain their sit for life.