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Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates - What They Do

How to Advance (Advancement)
Some judicial workers move to higher courts or to courts with broader jurisdiction. Advancement for alternative-dispute workers includes taking on more complex cases, starting a business, practicing law, or becoming district court judges.

Judges, magistrates, and other judicial workers held 51,200 jobs in 2008. Judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates held 26,900 jobs, all in State and local governments. Administrative law judges, adjudicators, and hearing officers held 14,400 jobs, with 24 percent in the Federal Government. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators held another 9,900 jobs. Approximately 26 percent worked for State and local governments. The remainder worked for labor organizations, law offices, insurance carriers, and other private companies and organizations that specialize in providing dispute resolution services.

Job Outlook
Overall employment is projected to grow more slowly than average, but varies by specialty. Judges and magistrates are expected to encounter competition for jobs because of the prestige associated with serving on the bench.

Job Growth
Overall employment of judges, magistrates, and other judicial workers is expected to grow 4 percent over the 200818 projection period, slower than the average for all occupations. Budgetary pressures at all levels of government are expected to hold down the hiring of judges despite rising caseloads, particularly in Federal courts. However, the continued need to cope with crime and settle disputes, as well as the public's willingness to go to court to settle disputes, should spur demand for judges.

Demographic shifts in the population also will spur demand for judges. For instance, the number of immigrants migrating to the United States will continue to rise, thereby increasing the demand for judges to handle the complex issues associated with immigrants. In addition, demand for judges will increase because, as the U.S. population ages, the courts are expected to reform guardianship policies and practices and develop new strategies to address elder abuse. Both the quantity and the complexity of judges' work have increased because of developments in information technology, medical science, electronic commerce, and globalization.

Employment of arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2018. Many individuals and businesses try to avoid litigation, which can involve lengthy delays, high costs, unwanted publicity, and ill will. Arbitration and other alternatives to litigation usually are faster, less expensive, and more conclusive, spurring demand for the services of arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators. Demand also will continue to increase for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators because all jurisdictions now have some type of alternative dispute resolution program. Some jurisdictions have programs requiring disputants to meet with a mediator in certain circumstances, such as when attempting to resolve child custody issues.

The prestige associated with serving on the bench will ensure continued competition for judge and magistrate positions. However, a growing number of candidates are choosing to forgo the bench and work in the private sector, where pay may be significantly higher. This trend may lessen the competition somewhat. Turnover is low among judges, and most job openings will arise as they retire. Additional openings will occur when new judgeships are authorized by law or when judges are elevated to higher judicial offices.

Jobs should be available for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators, but opportunities may be limited because, as with judges, turnover is low. Once these workers have the appropriate qualifications and skills, they tend to remain in the occupation for many years. Those with certification and specialization in one or more areas of arbitration, mediation, or conciliation should have the best job opportunities.

Judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates had median annual wages of $110,220 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $51,760 and $141,190. The top 10 percent earned more than $162,140, while the bottom 10 percent earned less than $32,290. Median annual wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates in May 2008 were $126,080 in State government and $77,390 in local government. Administrative law judges, adjudicators, and hearing officers earned annual median wages of $76,940, and arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators earned an annual median of $50,660.

In the Federal court system, the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court earned $217,400 in January 2008, and the Associate Justices averaged $208,100. Federal court-of-appeals judges earned an average of $179,500 a year, while district court judges had average salaries of $169,300, as did judges in the Court of Federal Claims and the Court of International Trade. Federal judges with limited jurisdiction, such as magistrates and bankruptcy judges, had average salaries of $155,756.

According to a 2008 survey by the National Center for State Courts, salaries of chief justices of State highest courts averaged $150,850 and ranged from $107,404 to $228,856. Annual salaries of associate justices of the State highest courts averaged $145,194 and ranged from $106,185 to $218,237. Salaries of State intermediate appellate court judges averaged $141,263 and ranged from $105,050 to $204,599. Salaries of State judges of general jurisdiction trial courts averaged $130,533 and ranged from $99,234 to $178,789.

Most salaried judges are provided health, life, and dental insurance; pension plans; judicial immunity protection; expense accounts; vacation, holiday, and sick leave; and contributions to retirement plans made on their behalf. In many States, judicial compensation committees, which make recommendations on the amount of salary increases, determine judicial salaries. States without commissions have statutes that regulate judicial salaries, link judicial salaries to increases in pay for Federal judges, or adjust annual pay according to the change in the Consumer Price Index, calculated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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